East Carolina pulls away from Chowan

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GREENVILLE – Even up, but not enough.

In a game against a Conference USA opponent the Chowan University men’s basketball team showed they belonged.  The Hawks played East Carolina University even – perhaps better – for three-quarters of their 40-minute contest in Minges Coliseum on Saturday.

But a poor second half of shooting and a late explosion by the Pirates gave ECU the 78-62 win. The loss dropped Chowan to 2-4 for their first six games, all played on the road.

East Carolina upped its record to 4-1.

Junior big man Quinton McDuffie was the workhorse for Chowan, nearly getting a double-double as he garnering 22 points, mostly in the paint on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor and hauling down nine rebounds.

CIAA Player of the Week, guard Antonio Reddic, finished with 15 points and six assists, despite playing the second half with foul trouble and being held scoreless by Pirate defenders in the frame.

Three Pirates reached double-figure scoring, led by pre-season Conference-USA pick Darrius Morrow and Miguel Paul, who each finished with 20 points while Erin Straughn scored a season-high 17 points.

Chowan led by four twice in the first half and there were eight ties.  With the Hawks ahead, 35-33, and less than three-and-a-half minute to go until halftime, ECU went on a 10-2 run to seize a 43-37 lead and then shut down their opponents defensively in the second half.

“We could have very easily come out and been overwhelmed playing here,” said second-year coach Dan DeRose, “but our guys came out strong and played with a lot of energy.  I’m proud of our guys to come out and play a Conference USA team and go toe-to-toe with ’em like we did.”

After the Pirates opened the game on an 8-4 run Chowan fought back and took its first lead of the afternoon on a McDuffie three-point play, 9-8. It was then nip-and-tuck for the next five and a half minutes with neither team able to pull away and the score deadlocked at 20-20.

But from about the eleven-and-a-half minute mark and for the next eight minutes Chowan played its best basketball of the contest.

Lee Branscome buried a jumper and Reddic scored first on a steal and lay-up and then on a jump shot from the corner to give Chowan a 24-20 lead.

ECU tied it twice more in the half before James Davis broke a 26-all deadlock with a rainbow three-pointer.  Following a Pirate dunk Rickey Lamb got a lay-up underneath the basket for a 31-28 Chowan lead.

Back stormed ECU to tie it for the seventh time before Reddic hit first a jump shot, then picked the Pirates’ pockets for a steal and a pull-up jumper and Chowan matched its biggest lead, 35-31, before East Carolina Head Coach Jeff Lebo called time out.

Whatever he said in his huddle worked.

ECU went on the late run and was able to take the six-point halftime lead, 43-37.

Chowan came out sluggishly in the second frame.

The Pirate defense tightened as the Hawks missed their first five shots from the floor.  Additionally, Reddic was not only shut down, he picked up two fouls and sat out six minutes of play.

Chowan came within three points twice: first on a Davis three-pointer that made it 47-44, and then on McDuffie’s only trey of the game with 13 minutes left cut the deficit to 51-48.

Thanks to strong front court play over the shorter Hawks ECU went on to build its first double-digit lead.  The Pirates’ largest lead was 17 with less than a minute to go before settling for the 16-point win.

“It wasn’t a pretty game from our standpoint,” said Lebo afterward, “but I thought Chowan had a lot to do with that.”

“Defensively in the first half,” he added, “we were horrendous. Second half, we did a lot better job defensively.”

“Our motto this year is ‘focus’,” said DeRose. “We’ve still got three months to go and we’re the only guys who can hurt us from not achieving what we want to do.

“The potential is there,” he added. “We can be a pretty good team and as long as we stay focused we’ll be OK.”

After playing the first two-and-a-half weeks on the road the Hawks played their first contest in the Helms Center Wednesday night when they hosted Newport News Apprentice in their home opener.