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View from the 'ville
Thursday, January 17, 2008

By Al Myatt

Milestone start within reach vs. UCF

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina had some emotional Minges moments in the second half of a 75-62 Conference USA basketball win over Marshall on Wednesday night.

The atmosphere of Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum can bring out the best in the Pirates and the crowd of 4,111 got involved as ECU erased a 48-40 deficit over the last 15:05. Appropriately, Sam Hinnant ignited the comeback with a three-pointer.

A 6-foot-4 junior guard from Charlotte, Hinnant was 6 of 10 behind the arc and totaled a game-high 24 points against the Thundering Herd. Senior guard Darrell Jenkins, the Conference USA assist leader, finished with 14 points and pushed his season assist accumulation to 114.

Jenkins set the ECU season assist record last season with 166. He's ahead of pace to snap that mark. Speaking of being ahead of pace, the Pirates improved to 7-8 overall with the victory that put them at 1-1 in league play. ECU has exceeded the overall win total for last year's club, which went 6-24.

Freshman guard Brock Young, the nephew of former Wake Forest and NBA guard Danny Young, dropped eight of 10 free throws as he contributed 12 points.

Jenkins and Young were turnover free in their combined 54 minutes.

James Legan had a personal flurry that included a three that tied the game at 56 with 6:52 to go and a lay-up with 5:24 left that put ECU ahead to stay at 58-56. The Pirates outscored the Herd 35-14 over the final 15:05.

ECU coach Mack McCarthy credited more effective defense in the latter stages. Marshall made 56.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half (13 for 23) but was limited to 8 for 21 shooting (38.1 percent) after the break.

"The key was we slowed them down in the zone press," McCarthy said. "We did a much better job with dribble penetration and stopping some second shots. All around we were a little scrappier.

"We executed much better the second half and we rebounded better as a team the second half too. We stopped the guys coming off the ball screens and squared up the offensive guys better."

Special incentive vs. Knights

In six previous seasons in C-USA play, the Pirates have never started as well as 2-1 in the league. They have the opportunity for their best C-USA record after three games when they host Central Florida on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Pirates won their C-USA opener during the 2002-03 season by topping Marquette 73-70 in Greenville. ECU dropped its next two C-USA games that season to Charlotte and Louisville. The Pirates have been 0-3 after three league games in every other season of C-USA play.

Although C-USA doesn't have its former depth of powerful programs, the UCF game represents an opportunity to make a statement of improvement for the Pirates. Perhaps ECU can find some more Minges magic. The homecourt advantage certainly helped the Pirates recover from a 99-58 loss at No. 2 Memphis in the league opener a week earlier.

UCF will come to Greenville with momentum. Although the Knights were idle this week, they played their first C-USA game at the new UCF Arena last Saturday and rose to the occasion by topping Tulsa 97-91 in triple overtime.

Jermaine Taylor, a 6-4 junior guard, hit a pair of threes in the third overtime against the Golden Hurricane as he scored 28 points. The Knights improved to 9-7 overall and 2-0 in C-USA. UCF set a home attendance record with a crowd of 7,097.

"That is what college basketball is all about. It was a special game... a special atmosphere," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "I am proud of our guys and the effort and composure we had. I am proud of our fans that were into it and lively."

Night of special occasions

(Editor's note: This sub-section corrects errors in an earlier version of this story.)

The 2007 Hawaii Bowl champion football team will be recognized at halftime of the ECU-UCF game on Saturday. The Pirates topped Boise State 41-38 for their first postseason triumph since 2000.

The inaugural class of the VanSant Society will also be presented. The society is named in honor of former ECU football player, coach and administrator Henry VanSant. It honors Pirate Club members with 25 years of consecutive giving.

Dr. VanSant died at the age of 70 on March 16, 2006. He was a deserving member of the ECU athletic hall of fame and it is fitting that a group which recognizes long term support will bear his name.

Godwin likes team's work ethic

East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin has been pleased with his club's approach toward offseason improvement as the Pirates prepare to open practice on Feb. 1.

"They realize how close we are to taking that next step," Godwin said. "I truly mean this. This group has really buckled down and been more focused and determined going through our fall preparation and the way we approach this. The work in the weight room and what we've done on the field has been better than any club I've had.

"If you're a coach and you're looking at that, it certainly excites you. This group feels like it's got something to prove. They're very focused and they're going to be gritty.

"We've got a good balance offensively of speed and power. We've got guys at the top and bottom of our lineup who can run. I call 'em table setters. Then we've got guys in the middle of the lineup who can step in there and hit for power and drive guys in."

Payday coming for Garrard

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, who led his team to a 12-6 record that included an unprecedented two wins in Pittsburgh, will be in the final year of his current contract in 2008.

Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union speculates that Garrard's new deal with the Jags will be between Matt Schaub's $48 million contract with the Houston Texans and Tony Romo's $67.5 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys, which are both for six years.

That would make the former ECU star the highest paid player in Jacksonville team history.

He also stands to become the highest paid athlete ECU has produced. Garrard signed a $5.25 million contract for three years with the Jaguars in 2005.

Former Pirate Rod Coleman inked a 6-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004 for $24 million. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed ex-ECU star Chad Tracy to a 3-year deal in 2006 for $13.25 million.

Hopefully, Garrard can steer some of his escalating wealth toward the Pirate Club.

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01/17/2008 03:52:50 PM


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