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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Thursday, January 6, 2005

By Al Myatt

Young Bucs yet to master closing the deal


    Postgame Audio: Herrion, Hammonds, Cook
   • Associated Press Game Story
   • Al Myatt Game Analysis
   • Box Score
   • Schedule, Scores, Attendance

Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


East Carolina appeared to be on the verge of a blowout of South Florida early in the second half of its Conference USA basketball opener on Wednesday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

But the Bulls consumed the cushion the Pirates spent most of the first half building and left town with a 72-71 win.

"We stopped playing team ball," said Pirates sophomore guard Mike Cook, who led ECU with 18 points. "We relaxed and got comfortable and we stopped moving the ball. We forgot what got us that 10-point lead."

Cook was referring to the Pirates' 42-32 lead at the half.

ECU coach Bill Herrion told his team at intermission that the Pirates needed to work to build the lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The margin went to 47-34 as Cook opened the second half scoring for the Pirates with an 18 footer and sophomore Japhet McNeil dropped a three.

But with a chance to bury the Bulls, McNeil missed a layup off a steal in ECU's press that clanged clumsily off the bottom of the rim. South Florida made a quick transition and got a 3-pointer from the left wing by James Holmes to draw USF within 47-37 with 18:25 to go.

Herrion called the sequence crucial in his postgame summary.

"We had a chance to go up 15 and all of a sudden it's back down to a 10-point lead," said the ECU coach. "That was a huge turnaround. We make that shot and then maybe we get it to 17 and then it's a different game."

The Pirates wished the outcome had been different but they were unable to turn back the Bulls comeback.

"It's always tough when you have a heartbreaker," said freshman Tom Hammonds, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first half. "We had it in our hands. It's been like that in two or three games we've had this year."

It also was an agonizing setback for Herrion from several standpoints. He said the Pirates heavily recruited South Florida senior forward Terrence Leather, who led the Bulls with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

Then there was the frustration of missing close shots repeatedly, only one of which might have meant the difference in a 1-point game. ECU got the ball inside to Moussa Badiane and Corey Rouse as designed, particularly in the second half, only to see the inside duo combine to go 6-for-23 from the field.

"Until I look at the tape I won't know for sure but watching the game I think we got the ball to point-blank range seven or eight times and we didn't convert," Herrion said.

But mostly it was a missed opportunity for a 1-0 start in C-USA that left the residue of regret on ECU's evening.

The Pirates could have used some momentum with a game at Charlotte looming on Saturday and then Cincinnati at home on Wednesday.

"This is an extremely unforgiving league," Herrion said. "There's zero margin for error. You've got to win home games. That's what really hurts."

South Florida (8-4) went 19 of 27 from the free throw line in the second half despite playing from behind most of the way while the Pirates were 6 of 10 during that span.

"They got to the line a lot and that's an issue at home," Herrion said.

ECU (5-8) couldn't hold off the senior-laden Bulls with the its own youthful collection of players. Herrion played five freshmen. But that's not an acceptable cop out for the Pirates.

"We can't play the 'We're young game,' " Herrion said. "It is what it is."

Lone ECU senior Badiane had great totals, 16 points and 16 rebounds, but went 6 of 19 from the field.

It was the second 1-point loss at home for ECU this season. Old Dominion edged the Pirates 51-50 on Dec. 12. There was also a 77-72 overtime loss at Western Carolina and a 57-53 cliffhanger that went South Carolina's way on Dec. 20 in Mobile, Ala.

"What we're having trouble doing is closing out games," Herrion said.

The ECU coach said he told his team at the half the team that wanted the game the most would win.

"I think South Florida wanted it a little more," Herrion concluded.


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02/23/2007 12:33:58 AM

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