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State runs into Minges ambush

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

GREENVILLE — Sam Hinnant made threes, Darrell Jenkins made free throws and East Carolina made history on Saturday night in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum with a 75-69 win over N.C. State.

Never before has a Pirates men's basketball team beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, a string of futility that spanned decades and countless miles of travel. The Wolfpack was making its first trip to ECU's Minges Coliseum in the 18th game of the series and was only the fourth ACC team to come calling on the Pirates.

State had managed to survive against the Pirates by a 64-57 margin last season in Raleigh.

"We had a bitter taste in our mouth from last year," said Jenkins, whose hometown is Anaheim, CA. "They celebrated pretty hard. I'm not from this area but I can see what a big rivalry it is."

The shift in venue and the raucous support of most of a crowd of 7,623 helped make a difference.

Hinnant was on from jump street.

"I hit my first shot and I knew it was going to be a good night," said the junior guard from Charlotte who torched the Wolfpack for a career-high 30 points.

With the score tied at 64, Hinnant drained his sixth three-pointer of the night with 2:13 remaining to put the Pirates ahead to stay. Cory Farmer alertly stole State's ensuing inbounds pass and scored for a 69-64 ECU lead.

Jenkins hit all four of his foul shots in the last 20 seconds to seal the outcome.

Hinnant claimed a defensive rebound with two seconds to go on a missed three-pointer by Gavin Grant, who led State with 25 points, and the celebration was on. ECU fans poured onto the Williams Arena court in a fashion that was deja vu of Conference USA wins a few years ago against powers Louisville [ View 10/17/2002 Story ] and Marquette [ View 02/26/2002 Story; View 12/30/2002 Story ].

"It was a lot of fun and it was an unbelievable atmosphere," said Pirates coach Mack McCarthy. "I've coached a long time and a lot of great places. I don't think I've been in a building as loud as that was. There were some times when it was deafening in there.

"There's no question that the crowd played a factor in the outcome."

So did McCarthy's pregame preparation and in-game adjustments.

After getting outrebounded 50-26 in an 82-67 loss to Clemson on Wednesday night, the smaller Pirates managed to control the boards 34-33 against State as sophomore John Fields grabbed a game-high 11 caroms for ECU.

"I had to sit with Coach Mack and watch the tape of the Clemson game and I didn't want to do that again," Fields said. "Mack fixed things after the Clemson game."

ECU won 68-65 on Sunday at George Mason before learning some valuable lessons against the No. 17 Tigers midweek. McCarthy said he was actually excited after the Clemson game because he realized many of the Pirates' mistakes were correctable.

"Both of the games last week were a factor in tonight's effort," said the ECU coach. "The fact that we came from behind at George Mason on the road was a big factor. Wednesday, we had to get used to the loud crowd and the level of intensity that an ACC team plays with."

Like the George Mason game, the Pirates had to come back against the Pack as State scored the first nine points of the second half to lead 47-38. It appeared that ECU might be left to choke on the Pack's exhaust fumes.

But McCarthy made some quick defensive tweaks during a 30-second timeout with 16:41 remaining. During another break with 14:54 left, he told his team that they had withstood State's run and were still within striking distance despite a 49-42 deficit.

That prompted a 14-4 run by the Pirates that was capped by a rare four-point play by James Legan with 11:30 to go that gave ECU its first lead at 54-53. ECU (4-5) forged a 62-58 advantage with 6:14 left on a tip-in by Fields.

State (4-3) failed to step up down the stretch.

"I thought (ECU) played extremely well," said State coach Sidney Lowe. "They made the plays down the stretch when they had to.

"They made the shots and got the rebounds that they needed to and we were not able to do that. ... Down the stretch when the game is won or lost in the last four or five minutes, we just did not execute and they did."

Hinnant finished 10 of 13 from the field, including 6 of 8 behind the arc and he went 4-for-6 at the line.

"Sam made some unbelievable shots tonight," Lowe said. "He made some when we had guys right in his face."

Jenkins finished with 11 points, eight assists and a newfound sense of pride.

"This means a lot," he said. "When we lose, we lose bad. Sometimes it's embarrassing to go to class. But this is a big confidence boost. I'm very proud to wear this jersey. We're going to be wearing our gear every day — to class, to the grocery store, wherever we go."

The Pirates have an exam break before hosting UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. (TV: TWC)

"We have some things to work on but we will get better," McCarthy declared.

He said a two-week respite might have come at a good time.

"I'm content to rest on this laurel for a little while," said the Pirates coach.

ECU athletic director Terry Holland was surveying the aftermath of the victory that manifested itself in a mass of humanity at midcourt. Holland was stationed at the lower level exit that leads to the Pirates locker room.

"This couldn't have come at a better time," Holland said.

"I didn't really celebrate," McCarthy confessed. "I went around the celebration."

Jenkins didn't miss it and he won't forget it.

"The crowd coming on the floor and cheering us on," Jenkins said. "They were showing us their love. I'll remember that the rest of my life."

ECU was up. Its players and fans teamed to produce a highly-coveted win over an ACC rival.

"We're from Conference USA," Hinnant said. "We get up for ACC teams. We see them play on TV every night."

Maybe the Pirates can even put the package of emotion and execution that overcame the Wolfpack into a sort of syndication this season. ECU fans would love to see reruns against UNCW and C-USA foes.

"It's big for the program," Fields said. "The first win against an ACC team. That will probably jump-start the program."



Date: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007.
Site: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, Greenville, NC.
Attendance:  7,623.
Officials: Gary Maxwell, Kyle Neve, Terry Moore.
Technical Fouls: None.

N.C. State          38  31 -   69
East Carolina       38  37 -   75

N.C. STATE (4-3)
PLAYER                  FG   3PT    FT   R  PTS  MIN
Grant................ 7-11   1-2 10-13   6   25   37
Costner.............. 2-11   0-4   3-5  10    7   32
Hickson..............  4-6   0-0   7-9   8   15   35
Fells................  3-8   2-5   0-0   2    8   29
Degand...............  1-7   1-3   2-2   3    5   34
Harris...............  0-0   0-0   0-0   0    0   0+
Gonzalez.............  1-2   1-2   0-0   0    3    6
Horner...............  1-2   0-0   0-0   0    2   14
McCauley.............  2-3   0-0   0-0   2    4   13
TEAM.................                    2
TOTALS...............21-50  5-16 22-29  33   69  200
PERCENT.............. .420  .313  .759

PLAYER                  FG   3PT    FT   R  PTS  MIN
Gagnon...............  0-2   0-0   0-0   1    0   18
Blair................  1-7   0-0   2-2   7    4   20
Farmer...............  2-5   0-1   2-3   5    6   14
Hinnant..............10-13   6-8   4-6   3   30   34
Jenkins..............  3-8   1-3   4-5   2   11   26
Legan................  3-7   2-4   1-1   1    9   24
Young................  0-3   0-1   0-0   0    0   14
Abrams...............  0-0   0-0   0-0   0    0    6
Fields...............  3-6   0-0   1-6  11    7   28
Wynn.................  2-3   0-0   0-0   1    4    8
Evans................  1-1   1-1   1-2   1    4    8
TEAM.................                    2
TOTALS...............25-55 10-18 15-25  34   75  200
PERCENT.............  .455  .556  .600

PAGE UPDATED 12/10/07 12:45 AM.

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