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Pirates' Sticky Zone Confounds No. 9 Marquette



GREENVILLE (AP) — It looks like March Madness is starting a few weeks early.

East Carolina pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season Tuesday night, holding No. 9 Marquette to six points over the final 12 minutes to stun the Golden Eagles 51-46.

The Pirates didn't know how big a talent gap there would be when they joined Conference USA this season. It's closing fast.

``You can't put a price tag on what this win does for our basketball program,'' said East Carolina coach Bill Herrion, whose club clinched a spot in the conference tournament next week in Cincinnati.

``I doubted whether we could compete in this league before we got in it,'' Herrion added. ``I told everybody we had to figure out how wide the gap was here. Can we even get on the floor and function in this league?''

East Carolina did more than function Tuesday night as the Golden Eagles made no free throws on just three attempts and were held to their season-low point total.

``East Carolina plays as hard as anybody in this league, and that includes us, Cincinnati — you name it,'' Marquette coach Tom Crean said. ``We didn't play for 40 minutes and when you don't play for 40 minutes in this league you are not going to succeed. We need to understand that — this time of year more than any time.''

Marquette (23-5, 12-3 C-USA) had won 12 straight before a last-second loss four days ago to No. 4 Cincinnati. But the heavy underdog Pirates (12-16, 5-10) used a 2-3 zone defense to turn the Golden Eagles' offense into a bunch of jump shooters.

``We've got to step up and keep understanding we can have a lot of season left,'' Crean said. ``We've got a chance to be pretty good and a chance to keep improving, but I don't think we've gotten a lot better this week.''

The East Carolina students stormed the floor after the final buzzer sounded on Senior Day in the first win over a Top Ten team since the program began in 1960.

``We just beat a great basketball team,'' Herrion said. ``But we've been playing good basketball the last three or four weeks.''

Crean noted that the 7,242 fans in Minges Coliseum were a factor.

``They get a lot of energy from their crowd,'' Crean said. ``They are going to be a real force in this league for years to come.''

Travis Holcomb-Faye was the hero for East Carolina, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half as the Pirates held Marquette to 35 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.

Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles with 19 points, but he was held to just four in the second half. Fellow guard Cordell Henry, who was averaging 19.8 points over his last four games, was 1-for-11 from the field for two points.

East Carolina never led and fell behind by 12 points with 12:37 to go before going on an 11-0 run to throw a scare into Marquette.

Jon Harris then scored on a layup and Odartey Blankson hit a 14-footer on Marquette's next two possessions for some breathing room and it appeared the Golden Eagles would be on their way to a win.

But Holcomb-Faye hit a 3-pointer and then a runner on the baseline with 4:29 left to tie it at 44-44 to set the stage for the final few tense minutes.

The Pirates, who beat Louisville here and played Cincinnati to a 10-point game, didn't back off after the final media timeout.

Moussa Badiane made a layup and his block of a shot in the lane by Henry led to a fastbreak hoop by Kenyatta Brown and the Pirates went up by four.

Marquette closed to 48-46 with 36 seconds left, but Holcomb-Faye hit a free throw and Badiane pulled down a key rebound after Scott Merritt missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up a dunk by Brown to seal it.

The pressure of maintaining composure and the lead in the final moments against one of the nation's top teams wasn't a factor, according to Brown.

``I don't think there was any intimidation,'' Brown said. ``We're not scared to play anybody. Intimidation wasn't ever a factor.''

Wade, the Golden Eagles' premier player, attributed the outcome to the Pirates' greater effort.

``They were a little more hungry than we were,'' Wade said. ``We didn't practice well coming off a loss. Coach was worried about a game like this slipping away and it did. He was worried about our toughness, us competing.''

Marquette hit seven of its first 10 shots over the opening 9:08, but didn't do much the rest of the first half as East Carolina switched to the zone.

While good on defense, the Pirates managed just nine points in the opening 13 minutes to fall behind by double digits before pulling within 27-20 at halftime.

Wade was 7-for-12 from the field for 15 points while the rest of the Golden Eagles were 5-for-16.

Box Score



Merritt 0-1 0-1 0, Nnamaka 2-4 0-0 5, Blankson 4-9 0-0 9, Wade 9-18 0-2 19, Henry 1-11 0-0 2, Diener 2-7 0-0 5, Diggs 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 3-3 0-0 6, Sanders 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 0-3 46.


Brown 4-10 2-3 10, Bing 2-6 0-0 5, Mikulas 2-9 0-0 4, Foxx 0-1 0-0 0, Hawkins 3-6 0-0 7, Badiane 5-6 0-0 10, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Holcomb-Faye 5-12 1-2 15. Totals 21-50 3-5 51.

Halftime: Marquette 27, East Carolina 20.

3-Point goals: Marquette 4-18 (Nnamaka 1-2, Blankson 1-2, Wade 1-5, Diener 1-6, Henry 0-3); East Carolina 6-20 (Holcomb-Faye 4-6, Bing 1-3, Hawkins 1-4, Foxx 0-1, Brown 0-6).

Assists: Marquette 10 (Henry 5), East Carolina 17 (Mikulas 7).

Rebounds: Marquette 33 (Wade 7), East Carolina 32 (Bing 7).

Fouled out: Nnamaka.

Total fouls: Marquette 13, East Carolina 9.

Attendance: 7,242

 02/23/2007 10:59:37 AM

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