Redshirt senior forward Seth LeDay paced East Carolina University’s (1-2, 0-0 AAC) men’s basketball team with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting as the Pirates fell to Appalachian State University (2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) in Boone, North Carolina by a score of 68-62 on Tuesday.
“He’s starting to round back into shape and it’s good to get him back out there,” head coach Joe Dooley said to Jeff Charles during his postgame interview.
Even with LeDay’s performance, the Pirates created a hole they could not overcome against the Mountaineers on Tuesday with a very slow start. Neither team scored until nearly two minutes into the contest when App State converted on a lay-up. That score opened an 11-0 run by the Mountaineers to kick-off the game, with the Pirates’ first bucket coming on a lay-up from freshman center/forward Charles Coleman to break-up the run.
Within ECU’s lack of scoring to begin the game was continued poor shooting. At the 13:36 mark of the first half, the Pirates were shooting just 1-of-11 from the field and had yet to sink a three-point basket, going 0-for-6.
“I thought we got off to a horrendous start and then fought back and seemed like every time we’d get a footing, we’d stumble back,” Dooley said. “We missed a bunch of shots at the rim and we missed a bunch of open shots that we need to start making.”
Despite the slew of missed shots, ECU climbed back into the game with the help of Mountaineer fouls. Seven of the Pirates’ first nine points came from the free throw line, allowing the visiting squad to mount an 11-3 run to draw within three points early.
Nevertheless, like Dooley alluded to, each step forward by the Pirates was matched with a counterpunch by App State and regression from ECU. Mid-way through the first half, sophomore guard Adrian Delph caught fire, draining his first three shots from beyond the arch while ECU struggled to find the bottom of the net.
“He’s (Delph) a good player and he got hot early, he saw the ball go in the basket,” Dooley said. “We went under a couple hand-offs and he popped up and shot them. I thought he played very well, he dominated the first half. I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
At the break, he accounted for 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from range to drive a four-point advantage for the Mountaineers. Despite being down at the half, the Pirates used a 6-0 run and a scoring drought from the host team to make the game competitive heading into the locker room.
Even so, the Pirates shot just 29% from the field in the first half (8-of-28) including 18% from behind the three point line. Their saving grace, however, was a 9-of-11 performance from the free throw line, one that accounted for one-third of ECU’s offensive output in the opening half.
On the flip side, App State managed to shoot 48% (11-of-23) from the floor, converting six three-point baskets and turning six Pirate turnovers into 10 points.
While the second half was pretty balanced between the two teams, the Pirates needed it to be anything but. In a hole coming out of the locker room, ECU amassed a 9-4 run with freshman forward/guard Brandon Suggs scoring the Pirates’ first seven points of the half.
At that point, the road team led 34-33, a brief snippet of the 3:50 total that ECU enjoyed an advantage on Tuesday.
“I thought we made some inexperienced plays that really hurt us,” Dooley said. “Bottom line is you also have to keep the ball out of the paint and guard it. We did in spurts and then we gave up a couple offensive rebounds.”
In all, ECU allowed five offensive rebounds, with four of those coming in the second half. Additionally, the Pirates held App State to only two second chance points in waning half, while at the same time allowing the Mountaineers to rack up 10 points in the paint.
Perhaps the biggest point of emphasis, however, was App State’s advantage in the fastbreak category. For the game, App State edged ECU 18-6 in fastbreak points, a mark that included a 14-2 edge for the Mountaineers in the final 20 minutes.
Off missed shots and ECU’s eight second half turnovers, App State frequently looked to outlet the basketball and run, often catching the Pirates’ defense not yet set-up on the other end.
Still though, the big storyline will remain shooting for the Pirates. From 29% in the first half, Dooley’s squad managed a 39% clip in the second half, but shot a lackluster 23% from downtown.
“We had so many shots at the rim that we’ve got to finish,” Dooley said. “Then we’ve got to make some threes too, we were 5-for-22 from three. I thought we had 10 or 15 good looks, we had some good looks we didn’t put in. We probably should have shot more threes too. We need to start stepping up and making some shots from the three-point line.”
In total, the Pirates finished the contest, 11-for-21 on lay-ups and converted a bucket on just 40.6% of their possessions for the ball game. That number does not compare favorably to an App State team that averaged over one point per possession and found a bucket on 47.6% of its possessions on Tuesday.
Missed shots aside, the Pirates maintained a chance to walk out of Boone with a victory. Trailing by just three points with 85 seconds left, ECU turned the ball over on an entry pass, resulting in an App State bucket and essentially making the game a free throw shooting contest for the remainder.
“The last six minutes, we turned it over. We stepped out of bounds, we had the charge, we had a one-on-four break and we get jammed up,” Dooley said. “We had a couple other things that we shouldn’t have done. We missed a couple shots at the rim, we missed a good look at a three. Then the flip side, we do get a big stop and we give up an offensive rebound. Those things we all have to clean up.”
With 11 new players on the roster, chemistry will be a major storyline for Dooley’s squad this season. Through three games, there have been plenty of mistakes and moments that showcase how young and inexperienced portions of ECU’s roster are right now.
“When you watch the tape from VMI to Navy, we’re better,” Dooley said. “And I think there were some better things now. We just got to keep plugging away.”
The Pirates will continue their season on Saturday with a matchup against Liberty University (3-0, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) in Greenville, North Carolina. Tip-off in Minges Coliseum is scheduled for 4 p.m.