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East Carolina 70, Wofford 68 (OT)
Saturday, November 26, 2005
By Al Myatt
Story posted Sunday, November 27, 2005

Defense, new faces come through




GREENVILLE — Unlike football counterpart Skip Holtz, East Carolina basketball coach Ricky Stokes hasn't taken the names off the backs of his players' jerseys.

That's probably a good thing. With seven first-year players among the 14 that dressed out for a 70-68 overtime win over Wofford on Saturday, the Pirates need all the help they can get when it comes to getting to know one another.

New additions Tyronne Beale (14 points) and Courtney Captain (11 points) joined familiar face Corey Rouse (14 points, 11 rebounds) as ECU (2-1) took a step forward in the bonding process by subduing a veteran Southern Conference entry.

Two free throws by junior point guard Japhet McNeil with 20.2 seconds left in the extra period gave ECU a 70-68 lead and the margin stood up as a jumper from the top of the key by Drew Gibson missed at the final buzzer.

The Pirates play at Wofford (2-3) on Wednesday night in Spartanburg, SC, in a bit of a scheduling oddity — back to back games against the same opponent.

"It's tough to find games when you've just come into a program," said Stokes, who succeeded Bill Herrion as ECU's hoops coach after last season. "But instead of looking at four game tapes to get ready, we'll just look at one."

Howard Wilkerson worked inside for 17 points for Wofford and Eric Marshall matched that figure for the Terriers. Marshall's three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation tied the score at 56 to bring on overtime.

After an ECU turnover in the backcourt with 1.1 seconds showing in regulation, Marshall hoisted a three off the inbounds pass that missed.

Another three-pointer by Marshall with 26 seconds left in overtime tied the score at 68 after ECU had built a 7-point lead (68-61) in the extra period.

"Wofford played well tonight," said McNeil, who scored five of his seven points in overtime. "They came out playing hard. Now it's a clean slate again. We go back to the drawing board. Now we understand a little more the sets that they run. If they call a play, we know what's going on. We've got a feel for them now."

McNeil and Courtney Captain each had five assists for ECU, although the duo combined for 11 turnovers. McNeil had a career high six steals.

Wilkerson and Rouse both fouled out on a double technical with 1:16 left in overtime.

"They were some words said," commented Rouse, who was shoved by Wilkerson during the exchange.

"This really was a great college basketball game," Stokes said. "In the first half Wofford made us play faster then we really wanted to, but in the second half we were able to slow things down. Both teams played hard tonight and although it wasn't pretty, we were able to get the win."

ECU struggled behind the arc, going 3 of 16 for the game. The Pirates warmed up to hit 12 of 21 from the field (57.1 percent) in the second half and dropped 5 of 6 in overtime (83.3 percent).

"Even though we didn't execute well offensively in the first half, I thought our defense kept us in the game," said Stokes, whose team was just 11 of 29 from the floor in the first 20 minutes for 37.9 percent.

The game drew 6,367 with a change to a 5 p.m. tipoff for the convenience of fans who attended ECU's 31-23 football win over UAB earlier in the day.

"Some fans said they didn't get their money's worth," deadpanned ECU athletic director Terry Holland in the postgame interview room after the nail-biter in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

"What a great idea to move the game to five o'clock," Stokes said. "Give our administration some credit. What a great atmosphere. I thought our fans were terrific."

Following the trip to Wofford for a rematch on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., ECU visits Old Dominion for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Saturday.

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02/23/2007 12:34:03 AM

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