East Carolina took South Florida to the woodshed last week in a 90-52 win at Williams Arena.
Like many others, I certainly didn’t see that coming.
I watched the television coverage of the Pirates’ earlier win over USF, a 67-65 squeaker on Jan. 3 in Tampa. The Bulls seemed like they were in control, but I saw an ECU team that clawed its way through the second half and then slipped out of town with a rare road win.
I really thought that USF would come to Greenville with a chip on its shoulder. I thought the Bulls would take the war to ECU and that the Pirates would have a real battle on their hands.
Interim coach Mike Perry said as much in his preview of the match-up. All indications were that this would be a tough test at home.
That couldn’t have been any further from the truth. The Pirates opened the game on a 19-3 run. ECU would go on to lead 44-18 at the half. It was a night that we have rarely seen at East Carolina.
“The best part for me was seeing the guys have so much fun,” said Perry. “They work so hard and sometimes you don’t see their improvement because of the teams we are playing. It’s tough to show that improvement against teams like Wichita State and Houston.”
Perry insists that his team is getting better.
They continued to show that improvement in the first half of Saturday’s game at No. 12 Cincinnati.
The Pirates stayed right with the Bearcats in the first half. ECU shot 55 percent from the field against one of the nation’s top defensive squads in that first twenty minutes.
One of the Pirates to look for in this second half of the season is Shawn Williams. Williams has earned the nickname ‘Microwave’ with his instant offense off the bench. He is the closest thing the Pirates have to a pure shooter from the outside.
“I’ve really been working on my shot,” said Williams this past week. “It’s nice to get in there and get things going.”
The Pirates couldn’t sustain their first half success against Cincinnati and faded away in the final frame to an 86-60 defeat.
Williams, however, was a winner as he earned American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week honors for his efforts against the Bulls and Bearcats.
The upcoming schedule eases a bit and ECU could pick up a couple of American wins over the next couple of weeks.
The Pirates take this week off and gear up for a weekend match-up in Dallas against Southern Methodist. The Mustangs are 14-6 and 4-3 in the AAC.
ECU then gets a pair of games with Tulane. The Green Wave is just a game over .500 at 12-11, and 3-4 in the American. The Pirates host Tulane next week and then visit New Orleans two weeks later.
Games with Memphis, 4-3 in the AAC, and Temple, 2-5 in the conference, separate the two meetings with Tulane for ECU.
“I think we’ll continue to show improvement,” said Perry. “The guys just have to keep working hard and I think they’ll get the results we’re hoping for.”
This will be a week to get the team’s legs back, to work on the fundamentals, and to hopefully finish the season strong.
There have certainly been signs of late that this team is getting better.