East Carolina’s personnel was severely lacking in an 86-66 loss at Tulane that extended its American Athletic Conference losing streak to six games last Saturday. Missing in action were Brandon Suggs, who averages 9.8 points, J.J. Miles (7.6) and Tremont Robinson-White (7.0).
The trio was in place for ECU’s 88-80 overtime win over the Green Wave on Jan. 5. Pirates coach Joe Dooley addressed what the absence of his third, fourth and fifth scorers meant.
“As you look around, a lot of teams have a big three or a third guy, and I think that, essentially, J.J. and Brandon Suggs are the third guy, combined,” Dooley said. “When they were healthy, their stats were almost 20 points a game. So, that’s a good third weapon. Even though it’s a third, it’s two guys.
“And then, obviously not having Tremont at Tulane didn’t help, because we’re down a guard.”
Suggs and Robinson-White were back and helped ECU to a 73-71 win at Tulsa on Tuesday night.
“From a defensive standpoint, they know what they’re doing,” Dooley said. “J.J’s stats, until he got hurt (Achilles), were actually really good. … It’s just unfortunate. He can’t plant, and it’s a part of it. Unfortunately for him, he’s really discouraged. He’s very, very discouraged … but it’s part of the game.”
Miles will be missing as the Pirates host Southern Methodist on Saturday at 6 p.m. (ESPNU).
Resilience at Tulsa
There were 15 lead changes at Tulsa, the last coming on a contested 3-pointer by Vance Jackson with just under 11 seconds to go.
Down 32-27 at the half, ECU led, 65-58, with five minutes remaining.
“We get up six or eight and then we have a couple of wasted possessions, and you can’t have those type of deals,” Dooley said. “Those are things that we can’t have happen.
“I do think the guys showed some resilience. We got us some stops. … Vance, besides the three that he made to put us ahead, made some big shots prior to that. He made a big three in front of our bench. He made some plays. I thought Tremont did some really good things, and we put ourselves in a little bit of a tricky spot with a couple untimely turnovers.”
Suggs took a charge with 25 seconds to go that withstood a video review in regard to his position relative to the restricted circle to set the possession that produced Jackson’s winning three.
“A lot of guys made a lot of big plays,” Dooley said. “I mean, Brandon had a couple of big plays with charges. We made enough plays. Now there was enough quirky stuff, too, from both sides, that made it a little bit harder, but I just thought the guys sort of stuck with it and didn’t get frustrated. We couldn’t buy a shot. We were what? One for 15 in the first half, on threes.
“Of those 15 shots, we had 12 wide-open ones. … We kept shooting. And what did we go? Nine for 14 in the second half, I believe.
“That’s the crazy thing about this business. … Some of it’s confidence which the way things have gone, we can’t have great confidence. I mean, we got to keep sticking away and have confidence, but it’s been a little bit of a rough, not a little bit, it’s been a rough stretch. And I think the guys are trying to stay positive. At some point something good needs to happen also.”
The outcome kept the Pirates from falling into the AAC basement.
“I keep saying to our guys. “You look at all these games with the exception of Houston, we’ve been right there. … We’re better than we’ve shown. And we’ve had everybody. If you look back at Temple (in Philadelphia), it’s a one-possession game.
“At Cincinnati, you’re down five, late with the ball. Cincinnati beats you; you’re in a buzzer beater. You’re up 20 against UCF and lose in overtime. You got the game at a five- or six-point game here with Temple. Those are all things… It’s what? 37-all at Memphis?”
SMU (17-5, 8-2 AAC) is coming off an 85-83 win at home over No. 6 Houston in which the Mustangs came from 15 points down in the second half.
“I think they should be super motivated because that helps their net,” Dooley said. “I mean, they’re sitting there at 17 and 5. I think their nets in the low fifties. … They need to get it down a little bit lower, but I would assume they’d be super-charged. I mean, they did a great job of getting back in the game and they were down quite a bit and they were down 15 and went zone and Houston had a little bit of foul trouble and just a great comeback. Obviously they’ve got the leading scorer in the league in Kendric Davis. … Very experienced. They start five seniors.”
Dooley and SMU coach Tim Jankovich worked together at Kansas.
“I know Tim very well, but they play nothing like Kansas,” Dooley said. “He does a really good job of spreading the floor, of putting Davis in some ball screens and a lot of interchangeable parts.”
SMU is averaging 24 attempts from beyond the arc per game and is hitting 36.8 percent of those. That translates to a defensive priority for the Pirates.
“Well, guarding a three-point line,” Dooley said. “They make a ton of threes and part of the threes that they make come off a driving kick and they do a great job of driving closeouts and forcing help and forcing rotation. … Davis can go get his shot whenever he wants. And the Weathers brothers (Michael and Marcus) are bad match-ups. (Emmanuel) Bandoumel, one of the elite defenders in our league and Davis is one of the elite scorers in our league.”
Jackson, a senior, has emerged as a leader in his first season at ECU. He’s averaging 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.
“He’s got length,” Dooley said. “I mean, he’s tall (6-9). He can really shoot it. I think he’s really become better or more comfortable, I should say, posting. He’s really added that. And I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s worked hard on it and I think that’s helped him. It gives him another avenue to score. And I think he’s sort of embraced it. But I do think with this height and the way he can shoot the ball, he’s an elite shooter. … That’s what he is.”
Jackson began his college career at Connecticut. He transferred to New Mexico and joined the Pirates from Arkansas.
“UConn had a coaching change,” Dooley said. “He went to went to New Mexico and I think they had some different dynamics out there, which I talked to the head coach and I talked to one of the assistants, which he wasn’t part of the bad dynamics.
“Arkansas, he went and they had a kid named Moses Moody at the same position as him and I talked to Eric Musselman. All the other places that he was, we talked to the head coach and no one had a problem. … Our antennas went up. … He’s been a lot of fun to coach. I mean, really easy to coach. I mean, is he perfect? No, but neither are we as coaches. He’s been a lot of fun to coach. I’m glad we got him.”