Tulane’s Jaylen Forbes had quietened a crowd of 1,414 in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Thursday night with a 3-pointer that gave the Green Wave a 69-66 lead with 24 seconds left in regulation.
The good thing for East Carolina was that Tristen Newton had not even scored half his career high in the Pirates’ American Athletic Conference opener at that point. The sophomore guard brought ECU within 69-68 on a jumper in the paint with 15 seconds to go.
Two free throws by Forbes gave the Wave a 71-68 lead with 13 seconds remaining.
“We didn’t have a timeout,” said Pirates coach Joe Dooley.
But ECU did have Newton, a valuable asset with the Pirates facing a dire need for a three.
“We called one of our plays and it almost became a broken play because Tulane switched it and the kid guarding Tristen, I think he thought he was going left, and sort of got caught in between and Tristen just stopped and shot it, which was a great play, and we were fortunate it went in,” Dooley said.
Good fortune stayed with ECU on Tulane’s final possession, which began with just over two seconds left. Kevin Cross almost won it for the visitors.
“I don’t know how the ball came out to tell you the truth,” Dooley said. “They threw the ball to the free throw line, the kid (Kevin) Cross turned and shot it. The ball was halfway down and I’ve never seen a ball spin the way it spun back out. It spun back out to the right and sort of spun around and then went under the rim.”
Newton had just four points in the first half but his teammates encouraged him to keep firing away. Newton followed their advice and scored 14 of his 32 points in the extra period. His effort produced an 88-80 win and put the Pirates at 9-0 at home this season.
“When he hit the shot to put it in overtime, it sort of gave us adrenaline, and then he got on a bit of a roll and the other thing we got some defensive stops, ” Dooley said.
ECU held Tulane scoreless for the last 2:26 of the extra period.
Newton had help from a pair of double-doubles by teammates as the Pirates overcame a layoff due to COVID that dated back to Dec. 21.
Brandon Johnson had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Suggs finished with 12 points and `11 assists.
“I think with how many assists we had was a big factor,” Dooley said. “I thought early in the game, we really passed the ball well, I thought that was a big factor. I thought our offense got a little stagnant, which we obviously didn’t have a lot of practice, so we’re going to have to clean that up. We had 25 assists, so that’s a pretty big factor. And Brandon Suggs got 12 points, 11 assists. That’s a huge, huge deal.”
Wave had momentum
Tulane came to Greenville following wins over Memphis (85-84) at home and on the road against Cincinnati (68-60) on Saturday. The Wave held off the Bearcats after building a big lead.
“They beat Memphis at home and then they controlled the whole game against Cincinnati,” Dooley said. “It was really impressive. They got off to a great start having Cincinnati down 26. Cincinnati was coming out of a pause and came back and made it the game and had some opportunities to make it even a tighter game. But the first half that Tulane played at Cincinnati was about as impressive a half as I’ve seen this year.”
Dealing with down time
Dooley talked about the layoff resulting from two postponed games.
“The big thing that we’re concerned about is conditioning,” Dooley said. “I think you’re trying to make sure the guys don’t get hurt. They’re trying to get in shape. You got to get in shape before you can play. And I think what we’ve been concerned about is making sure guys don’t get hurt because of the conditioning factors.
“And I think we’ve done pretty good job. When we get back on the court, we did some shooting and some cardio stuff, but the thing that the guys aren’t used to is the contact. when you’re not practicing, that’s a factor, you’re getting hit with screens or block outs and all those physicality deals are the ones that you’re most concerned with.”
Keeping tabs on Tabbs
Boston College transfer Wynston Tabbs will miss the 2021-22 season due to knee surgery.
“Yeah. It’s disappointing,” Dooley said. “The good news is I think medically he’s in a better situation than he might have. We obviously always look at worst case scenario, but after we get all the doctor’s opinions, I think that they all came to the same conclusion. I think he’s in a little bit better place than the worst case scenario would’ve been. Obviously, we’re disappointed. We don’t have him. I think he’s a really good player, proven, high level, but we do look forward to getting him back next year.
It’s on the knee that he didn’t have surgery on it at BC, but I think we feel pretty good about the direction it’s going.”
Dooley was not sure of the status of Ludgy Debaut, Alanzo Frink or Marlon Lestin on Thursday morning for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Temple.
“We’re hoping,” Dooley said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into this. Most of these decisions are made way over my head. These are medical decisions and we have a daily update on what’s going on and we sort of cross our T’s and dot our I’s and just sort of listen to what the doctor tells us.”
Trip to Temple
Dooley talked about travel plans.
“We’re going to practice here tomorrow morning then drive to Raleigh tomorrow afternoon and fly up there tomorrow night,” he said.
The Owls are 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the AAC after a 66-62 win at Central Florida on Wednesday night.
“I thought they played well,” Dooley said of Temple’s performance in Orlando. “I’m actually in the process of watching their first Central Florida game as we speak. It’s a really good win yesterday at Central Florida. The Houston loss (66-61, Jan. 2), it was a five-point game and they really got themselves back and they were in a little bit of a hole, dug themselves out of it and got right back in the game.”
Winning on the road
ECU is 1-3 outside of Minges Coliseum this season.
“The surroundings will be a little bit different because it’s an away game,” Dooley said. “We’ve obviously played four neutral court games. The guys have been out of our building. We’ll get a chance to shoot at Temple on Friday night. We’ll get there little bit, just shoot some free throws just so the guys will get a little bit of the backdrop opportunity and see what the facility looks like. And then we’ll get over to Temple and shoot a little bit over there on Saturday.”