When East Carolina plays Saturday at 8 p.m. at Tulane, an extended losing streak will become history.
The Green Wave is 0-12 in the American Athletic Conference. The Pirates are 0-9 on the road.
ECU coach Joe Dooley talked about factors involved in his club’s struggles away from Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
“First of all, really good teams,” Dooley said. “That makes it hard to play on the road when you’re playing really good teams on the road. I think some of it is a mindset. We’ve played a little bit better on the road recently.
“I think part of learning how to win is going through some tough lessons and we’ve definitely done that. I think the big thing for us is really just sort of figuring out what’s going to give us the best opportunity to win. On a certain day when we’ve got guys making shots, it helps. Obviously, if we rebound the ball and don’t turn it over, it gives you a better chance also.”
The first meeting
The Pirates are 9-7 at home, 9-16 overall and 2-11 in the AAC. Tulane is 3-9 in Devlin Fieldhouse on its campus and 4-21 overall.
In the first meeting on Jan. 31, ECU topped the Green Wave, 66-65, as senior point guard Isaac Fleming scored five of his 11 points in the last four minutes. Freshman Jayden Gardner had 15 points and nine rebounds. Seth LeDay scored 13 and Dimitri Spasojevic added 10 points.
The Pirates were 26 of 63 from the floor (41.3 percent) and three of 15 behind the arc (20 percent).
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Dooley recalled. “It was a very deliberate-paced game, a low possession game. They really hurt us in the first half rebounding the ball. They had, I think, it was 10 or 11 offensive rebounds and really bothered us the first half. The second half, we were able to rebound the ball and get some transition baskets and also pressure them a little bit more. Obviously, people usually handle pressure a little bit better at home so we’ll be ready to guard the drive and also keep them off the backboard.”
Tulane committed 16 turnovers compared to just seven for ECU last month. The Wave led 42-34 in rebounding.
Preparing for second meeting
Dooley was recruiting in Mississippi on Wednesday. The Pirates worked on skill development in Greenville that day. Dooley directed practice on Thursday. ECU will work out in New Orleans today.
The Pirates coached about the focus in practice.
“With a two-day prep for Tulane, I think a lot of things that they hurt us on,” Dooley said. “We’ll look at some of the things. (Tulane) Coach (Mike) Dunleavy changes almost game to game what they run, so we’ll be looking at things that hurt us and what they’re running more recently and some of the things that we did that were successful.”
Value of threes
The Pirates are coming off a 77-73 overtime loss at home to Tulsa on Sunday. ECU faced a 17-point deficit in the first half before rallying for a six-point lead.
Shawn Williams was eight of 14 on 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 26 points but no one else connected from beyond the arc for the Pirates.
Dooley talked about coming back against the Golden Hurricane.
“The back-to-back threes, we made an 8-0 run,” Dooley said. “We got some stops and we were able to get out in transition. The guys did a nice job of not panicking. The back-to-back threes really sort of springboarded us because it was a quick turnaround right there.
“We make some shots, we’re like every other team. It gives you energy to do things. You don’t have to rely so much on your defense. Shawn made all of our threes. We had a bunch of other wide-open threes that we didn’t make.
“Seth (LeDay) was effective and Jayden (Gardner) obviously, had a double-double (19 points, 16 rebounds). When Shawn jumps up and makes eight threes, that really helps.”
The Pirates have lost six straight since edging the Wave. Tulane’s streak of futility stands at 16 games.
Williams is hitting 34.5 percent of his 3-point tries but the Pirates are just 27 percent beyond the arc as a team. Dooley indicated that opponents want ECU to shoot from long range.
“It looked better the other day because they made shots,” Dooley said. “I do think that one thing that is happening is people are running at the ball. Usually, people are bluffing and getting back on shooters. With us, people just run at the ball to make us pitch it, to make us shoot jump shots. That’s something that’s happened.”.
The Pirates are playing with personnel supplied by the previous coaching staff. Dooley and the current staff are working diligently on recruiting.
“We obviously need to get bigger,” Dooley said. “We need to get more athletic and longer. I like the guys that we have. I think they add a dimension. I think we need to get a little more athletic on our perimeter and in our frontcourt. I think the guys that we’re involved with address those needs. The big thing is getting them. We’ve got some guys who are heavily recruited and coveted by a lot of schools. We’ve got to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward and are not getting outworked by anybody.”
How many new faces will be in the program in 2019-20?
“That remains to be seen,” Dooley said. “With three signed and one committed, I think we’ll probably have a few more. The exact number, I’m not sure. We’ll have definitely a few more.”
Dooley said the competitive demands of the AAC have not surprised him.
“No, I knew it was a high major,” he said. “I’ve seen these programs and watched these programs from afar. It’s a really good conference, like we knew getting into it. I think going forward, it will be really good. Memphis is recruiting. A lot of the teams have some younger guys. I just think it’s a really competitive, really high level conference.”
Dooley is working on turning things around as soon as possible.
“We want to be good next year,” Dooley said. “How can we be better next year? I look at where we are right now. If we had played some of those nonconference games where we are right now, our record would be a little bit better, but I don’t know that having not gone through the process that our guys were ready for a lot of these things. I just think, I knew coming in it was a building situation.
“There’s a number of factors that go in to a lot of these things. We’re figuring a lot of them out. Have we solved them all? No, but there’s a lot of things that we’re addressing, have to address and have addressed.”