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
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
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
``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
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
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.
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.
EAST CAROLINA (12-16)
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
Rebounds: Marquette 33 (Wade 7), East Carolina 32 (Bing 7).
Fouled out: Nnamaka.
Total fouls: Marquette 13, East Carolina 9.