East Carolina drives for 5-0 against North Florida

NCAA Basketball

East Carolina is on the verge of doing something it has rarely done in its basketball history.

If the Pirates can finish a four-game homestand Thursday with a nonconference win over North Florida, it would mark just the fifth 5-0 start in program history and just the school’s third as a Division I member.

That looked as if it wouldn’t be a possibility Monday night when the Pirates, who led by as many as 16 points in the first half, trailed UNC Wilmington 67-57 with 7:26 left in the second half. But East Carolina rallied to force overtime and then dominated the extra session for an 88-78 victory.

The manner in which the Pirates went about winning the game pleased coach Joe Dooley.

“When we were down 10 … I told our guys that there were a lot of people who turned their TVs off and you’re going to find out we’re not going away,” he said. “I thought we really fought back and showed character.”

Jayden Gardner has given East Carolina a lift, leading the team in scoring with 20.3 points per game and adding an average of seven rebounds. Four teammates produce between 8.3 and 10 points per game, offering the Pirates the balance to give opponents problems.

While East Carolina attempts to stay unbeaten, North Florida is trying to get the bagel out of the win column. The Ospreys fell to 0-6 Monday night when Florida Atlantic spoiled their home opener 79-77.

North Florida canned 15 of 33 3-point attempts and got 20 points from Jose Placer, just two off his career high.

The Ospreys missed on a chance for a victory when a shot by Ryan Burkhardt went begging as time expired.

“Great fight,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “No give up. We continued to fight and persevere. We had a lot of resiliency and had some guys make some big plays and big shots. We gave ourselves a chance at the end, but they ended up being better than us.”

Defense and rebounding have been the biggest issues for North Florida. Opponents are canning 46 percent of their field-goal tries while controlling the boards by an average of eight per game.

This will be the first meeting of the two teams, but Dooley is familiar with the Ospreys, having compiled a 10-3 mark against them when he ran the program at Florida Gulf Coast.

–Field Level Media

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