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School's out but Marquette gets Minges bonus lesson


The game story
and the post-game
audio, as penned and
digitally recorded by
Denny O'Brien.


East Carolina's Gabriel Mikulas, left, drives
to the basket against Marquette's Odartey
Blankson in the second half Tuesday night
at Minges Coliseum's Williams Arena. The
Pirates used their boisterous home court
advantage to topple the nationally-ranked
Golden Eagles for the second straight year.
(AP Photo, The Daily Reflector, Chris Cummins)

By Denny O'Brien

Box Score

GREENVILLE — With its students away on Christmas break and senior point guard Travis Holcomb-Faye still glued to the bench, few gave East Carolina much of a chance against nationally-ranked Marquette.

But neither a holiday hiatus nor an academic casualty proved too big of an obstacle for the Pirates and their loud and proud fans Monday night.

On an evening chock-full of surprises, ECU shattered its home attendance record with an overflow crowd of 8,081. And fueled by a resurrecting 22-point, 11-rebound performance from forward Gabriel Mikulas, the Pirates crushed the Golden Eagles' spirit with a stunning 73-70 victory.

It was the second-consecutive season that Marquette  (No. 9 Coaches Poll, No. 13 AP) tugged a lofty ranking into Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, which has quickly become a House of Horrors for Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean.

"It's a very tough environment," Crean said. "I don't think we'll be the last team in Conference USA to walk out of here without a win.

"The environment is tough, but the team is very tough itself. They are a very good team; they are very well coached; they know exactly what they want to do on both ends of the floor and they are going to win a lot of games this year."

That prediction will be a safe one if the Pirates (9-2, 1-0 C-USA) continue to clean the glass with the same fervor they displayed against tall, talented Marquette (8-2, 0-1.)

In addition to Mikulas' 11 boards, the Pirates received nine apiece from forward Erroyl Bing and center Moussa Badiane. Bing was especially tough on the offensive glass, swiping six as ECU held an impressive 43-31 rebounding advantage.

This from a team that was out-rebounded 43-28 by unheralded Coastal Carolina seven days ago in a disappointing loss.

"I was really worried coming into this basketball game because I just didn't know where the mindframe of this team was at," Pirates coach Bill Herrion said. "In both losses, I was just really disappointed in the way we played.

"The last couple of weeks, I was just concerned about were we losing our competitive edge and kind of the chip on our shoulder. Obviously these kids answered that question for me tonight."

Mikulas certainly did, playing what Herrion described as "the best game of his career." The six-foot-eight forward overpowered and out-finessed his foes, nailing six-of-nine field goals and all ten of his free throw attempts.

The Pirates also got a hefty 16-point contribution from Bing, who hit six of his 11 attempts from the floor.

"It was good to see Erroyl Bing back," Herrion said. "Erroyl Bing has been really struggling offensively. He's been struggling with his confidence. I thought he came up with a lot of big plays for us down the stretch."

By the time the game entered crunch time, East Carolina had built itself a nine-point cushion following Badiane's thunderous slam with 2:25 to play.

The Golden Eagles didn't go away without a fight, scoring nine-consecutive points to knot the game at 70 with 42 seconds to play.

That's when Pirates leading scorer Derrick Wiley took over, driving to the hole and drawing a foul, then draining the game-winning free throws.

"I wanted to shoot those free throws because I was mad," Wiley said. "Right before that, Gabe (Mikulas) hit me on a pass back toward the middle and I missed that lay up. I knew I had to do something to make up for that."

Wiley made perhaps his biggest impact defending National Player of the Year candidate Dwyane Wade, who finished the evening with a below-average 21-point effort. Wade connected on just 7-of-17 field goal attempts, while committing six costly turnovers.

About the easiest shot the Eagles' star had all night was a last-gasp three from the corner with one second remaining that could have tied the game.

"It was a good experience for me," Wiley said. "He's a big-time player. Soon, he'll be going to the NBA. I can build off that and it will just help me out for the future."

Momentum shifted several times during the first half.

The Golden Eagles used a 9-2 run with Badiane on the bench in foul trouble to take an early 18-8 lead when Todd Townsend drained a three pointer from the left wing.

The Pirates bounced back with a run of their own, outscoring Marquette 19-6 to jump ahead 33-30 before the Eagles scored the final five points of the half to take a 35-33 lead into the locker room.

"When you play a ranked team, you sometimes give more than what you have," Mikulas said. "That's what we did tonight. We need to keep doing that when we don't play ranked teams. Every night, every game, we need to do the same."

The Pirates will have an opportunity to do just that when they entertain Division II member UNC-Pembroke Thursday night.

BOX SCORE: East Carolina 73, Marquette 70

Marquette  (70)

Player         FG      FT     PTS
Townsend       4-8     0-0    11
Merritt        2-6     0-0    4
Jackson        5-9     4-4    14
Wade           7-17    6-6    21
Diener         4-14    0-0    11
Novak          0-2     0-0    0
Chapman        1-1     0-0    3
Sanders        2-3     2-2    6
Totals         25-60   12-12  70

East Carolina (73)

Player         FG      FT     PTS
Bing           6-11    3-4    16
Mikulas        6-9     10-10  22
Badiane        2-6     3-5    7
Rivers         1-7     2-2    5
Wiley          5-18    4-6    14
Mackay         2-4     0-0    5
Rouse          1-3     2-3    4
Totals         23-58   24-30  73

Halftime: Marquette 35, East Carolina 33.

3-Point goals: Marquette 8-22 (Townsend 3-6, Diener 3-10, Chapman 1-1, Wade 1-3, Novak 0-2); East Carolina 3-12 (Bing 1-2, Mackay 1-3, Rivers 1-4, Mikulas 0-1, Wiley 0-2).

Rebounds: Marquette 31 (Jackson 8); East Carolina 43 (Mikulas 11).

Assists: Marquette 15 (Townsend, Wade 5); East Carolina 9 (Rivers, Wiley 3).

Total fouls: Marquette 23; East Carolina 13.

Fouled out: None.

Attendance: 8,081.

Copyright 2002 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

02/23/2007 01:51:07 AM

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