We all knew that one day the shots would fall for this East Carolina basketball team.
That day came on Saturday, as ECU shot almost 60 percent from the three point line in a 74-65 win over Tulane.
This same gang that hadn’t been able to shoot straight came out guns a blazing on Saturday, hitting six of their first seven shots from the three-point line.
The Pirates made a season-high 12 3-pointers in the win.
Those same shots that simply haven’t fallen in American Athletic Conference play finally found the nets on Saturday.
Last week, interim head coach Mike Perry was asked about the shooting woes and he summed it up by comparing his current bunch of shooters with former Pirate sharpshooter Akeem Richmond.
Richmond led ECU to the program’s only true championship, the CIT win in 2013. You’ll recall it was Richmond who hit the game winning three at the buzzer at Weber State in that 77-74 victory.
“Akeem didn’t have a conscience,” said Perry. “He would miss five in a row and keep looking for a shot. He knew he could hit five in a row.”
Perry then compared Akeem’s success to Caleb White’s struggles leading into the Tulane game.
“Caleb is just too nice,” explained Perry. “He misses a couple of shots and he starts looking to get the ball to someone else. He’s a good kid and he’ll get it back. A lot of our guys are like that.”
White broke out of his woes with a 20-point outing in the win over Tulane. He was 5-11 from the field and 3-7 from beyond the arc.
“Felt good to see the first couple to go, gain some more confidence as the game goes on,” said White after the victory. “Putting the ball on the floor, getting to the free throw line. [I] just had to stay aggressive. You are just more confident — you can do different things and you aren’t afraid to do things. Better flow overall. Just more confident overall. Just a weight off my shoulders, I could relax at halftime.”
Hopefully, their were enough positives in Saturday’s win to help gain some positives for the second half of the AAC season.
Kentrell Barkley continues to play well. Despite ECU’s struggles, Barkley has proven to be the beacon of hope. He was just four assists short of the program’s first ever triple-double. Barkley scored 14 points, hauled in a dozen rebounds and dished out six assists.
The other standout from Saturday was freshman Jeremy Sheppard. Shep hadn’t started a game since New Year’s Eve. He took advantage of the starting opportunity, scoring a career high 18 points in the victory.
“I thought we have been able to get good starts defensively,” said Perry. “I thought we would get a better spark if we had an offensive substitution. Also I was concerned with teams pressuring us and I didn’t want us to be shocked with the pressure and stagnate us early.
“I wanted Jeremy because he can beat the pressure off the bounce by himself, especially in the full court. I didn’t want us to get stagnant on offense. I knew he would create and generate more offensive pace.”
White agreed that Sheppard certainly provided a much needed spark.
“Jeremy helped out some tonight, too,” White said of Sheppard. “He had been going through a little bit of a shooting slump and [rookie Elijah Hughes] was down a little bit. Once guys put it together with [Barkley] on certain nights, we’ll be in a lot better position to compete and win.”
Perhaps what was most impressive about the victory is that it came after such an embarrassing loss.
“It was a massacre in Dallas,” said Perry. “You’re always concerned. What’s going to be the mentality of your team as they try to respond from such a devastating loss? I couldn’t have been prouder of this group. They held themselves accountable for what happened in Dallas, and they moved forward from there.”
Now the trick will be to move forward from the win over the Green Wave.
The Pirates have this week off as far as games go, and then they go to Tampa looking for the season sweep of South Florida.
Then come a couple of American home games, against Temple and Central Florida, before the return game with Tulane.
There is still plenty of basketball to be played this season.
Perhaps this team has regained its confidence and can make a little run down the stretch.