East Carolina had hoped that a road win at South Florida and a close loss at Connecticut might show that the team was turning things around.
Fifth-ranked Wichita State, Houston and a rematch with USF formed a 3-game home stand which provided a great opportunity for Pirate basketball.
That opportunity has evolved into even more frustration after a 35-point loss to the Shockers and a 16-point loss to the Cougars.
Neither of the losses was a big surprise, but you know this program certainly wanted to show that it could at least compete with a couple of the American Athletic Conference’s top teams.
The Shockers barely broke a sweat in a 95-60 win over ECU last Thursday night.
After the game, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall gave Pirate fans hope for the future. He told the media that the ‘right guy’ could win at ECU.
“I’ve never believed that, if you get the right guy, you can’t win anywhere,” Marshall said. “Just outworking people and getting your kind of guys, tough guys that want to compete at a high level in a great conference, and X and O a little bit. I know that this is a job that you can do that. [You just have to] find the right guy.”
That will be ECU’s goal going forward, to find that right guy.
That’s certainly not a shot at interim coach Mike Perry. I think Perry did a great job with the team last year in Jeff Lebo’s absence. This year I just think the deck was stacked so much against him that he really didn’t have a chance.
Still, Perry would be the perfect candidate to stay on with the new coach to help with the transition, much like he did when Lebo was hired originally.
Perry still has hopes of winning conference games this season. This latest set of games has come against some really good programs.
“There is a big divide in this league. You talk about Wichita State, Cincinnati and Houston, they’re all right there at the top of the league and there’s some divide after that,” said Perry. “The challenge for everybody including ourselves is to try to bridge that divide and try to compete among the guys who kind of look like you, and then try to get better in terms of closing the gap with the teams at the top of the league.”
The Pirates followed their loss to Wichita state with a 65-49 loss to Houston.
Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson has strong ties to the state of North Carolina. Sampson was born in Laurinburg and was an award winning student athlete at Pembroke High School and later at UNC-Pembroke.,
Sampson had high praise for Perry as the ECU interim coach.
“A team gets down 30 at home, the easiest thing in the world is to start being selfish and cashing it in, but they outscored us in the second half, which is a credit to them,” said Sampson. “They got down by 30 and they lost by 16. I think that says a lot about (Perry) and the way those kids respond to him.”
The way the Pirates respond to Perry the rest of the way will go a long way towards how this ECU team finishes out the season. That response might also keep Perry in Greenville with the new coach.
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