The East Carolina University men’s basketball team won its home opener on Sunday against Coppin State with a convincing 76-50 victory to start off its season 1-0.
With 3,228 people in attendance, the Pirates did not disappoint their fans. The first bucket of the game came off of a steal and emphatic one-handed slam dunk from junior Kentrell Barkley, who finished with a game-high of 14 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes, but got into foul trouble, which limited his night.
The Pirates never lost the momentum after that dunk and led 40-18 at halftime. Two other players reached double figures in points as junior Isaac Fleming finished with 12 points and four assists, while redshirt freshman Shawn Williams pitched in another 14 points along with four rebounds, starting off the game 2-2 from beyond the arc. Senior B.J. Tyson and Justin Whatley each contributed eight points to help lead a balanced scoring effort from the entire Pirates’ team.
“My first shot going down helped a lot,” Williams said. “It also helped my teammates because they felt comfortable passing the ball to me and in turn, I felt comfortable taking the shots, which made the game a lot easier.”
While the Pirates did score 76 points, they played great defense throughout, holding Coppin State to 24.6 percent shooting from the field with a three point shooting percentage of 23.1.
“Just knowing that the team loved to run-and-gun and chuck threes was awesome,” Fleming said. “We were able to keep them at our pace and not try to go shot for shot with them.”
Out of the 40 total minutes, the Pirates only trailed for 24 seconds and led for the remaining 37:36. The biggest lead for ECU was 27 points and the Pirates outscored Coppin State in the paint 36-8 and 36-22 in bench points.
Walk-on players, sophomore John Whitley, junior Justice Obasohan and junior Addison Hill, got the opportunity to play in the end of the opener. Obasohan made a jumper at the end of the game that had the arena fired up even more after the game was decided.
“I loved that,” Fleming said. “Just off the simple fact that No. 0 from Coppin State was talking trash the whole game, to see Justice hit the jumper in his face. It was great. Just a nice way of putting the icing on the cake.”
The victory over Coppin State made it ECU’s 18 straight 1-0 start, with its last loss coming on Nov. 19, 1999 at Robert Morris University where it fell 58-53. The margin of victory for the Pirates during this streak is 20.9 points, while the past 12 of those victories have come at home.
“Defensively, I thought we did a good job,” head coach Jeff Lebo said. “I was worried about our defense because of Coppin State’s ability to shoot outside the perimeter. It was a odd game for our post guys to play defensively when it came to guarding the smaller guys, but we made it difficult for them to get open looks. Thought it was a good team effort overall.”
After dominating in the first game of the season, Lebo and the Pirates look to bring that same type of intensity into its next matchup against Radford University.
ECU has played Radford eight times and leads the series 5-3 all-time, winning the past three times it matched up, and two of those three times taking place in Greenville.
“I think Radford will be a different type of game for us,” Lebo said. “We will have to get ready with one day of preparation because we have to have a mandatory NCAA day off tomorrow which always concerns me. I have a lot of respect for its coach, he does a good job and they will execute and defend.”
The game against Radford will be on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Minges Coliseum.