Jackson carries East Carolina past SC State 70-62

ECU Pirates

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina opened its 2021-22 campaign Tuesday night with a 70-62 victory over South Carolina State in front of a crowd of 3,605 inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates (1-0) secured their 22nd-straight season-opening victory, entering the contest tied with Duke for the longest such streak nationally. The Bulldogs (0-1) fell in their first game under new head coach Tony Madlock.

J.J. Miles paced four ECU players in double figures offensively with 18 points thanks in part to draining four three-point field goals. Tristen Newton dropped in 15 points while Arkansas transfer Vance Jackson showed well in his first outing in the Purple and Gold with a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Brandon Johnson began his Pirate career with a bang as well, exploding for 11 points and 13 rebounds. Additionally, Tremont Robinson-White matched his career-high of nine assists while collecting three steals.

Cameron Jones posted a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the visitors as TJ Madlock complemented Jones’ performance with 11 points and six rebounds of his own.

SCSU ended up out-shooting ECU .355 to .324 as both sides knocked down 24 attempts from the field. The rebounding battle finished even as well at 50 apiece, but the Pirates forced 16 Bulldog turnovers and turned those miscues into 20 points.

South Carolina State built a 7-0 advantage in the opening minutes of the contest, but East Carolina began to chip away at the deficit and took its first lead of the night by an 11-10 margin after Miles connected on a triple at the 14:12 mark. The Pirates fell behind by seven again as the half wore on, but ECU started forcing turnovers and tied things right back up at 21 with 10:18 to play in the stanza.

The Bulldogs led by as much as four at 30-26 following a Madlock fast-break bucket with 7:05 showing on the clock. However, consecutive threes by Miles capped a quick 10-1 run that propelled East Carolina in front 36-31. The Pirates would not relinquish the upper hand the rest of the half, heading into the locker room leading by a 42-34 count.

ECU out-shot South Carolina State .381 to .355 in the initial 20 minutes and recorded 10 assists on 16 made buckets. The Bulldogs had the better of the rebounding battle, 27-22, and hit nine of 13 from the free throw line.

Miles drained a pair of free throws with just over a minute gone in the second half to afford the Pirates a 44-34 edge. Deaquan Williams capped a 10-2 South Carolina State run that made it a 46-44 contest with 15:45 to play.

The next 5-6 minutes defined the game as East Carolina limited the Bulldogs to just two points while extending its lead all the way to 59-46. Johnson took over during the stretch, netting seven of those points.

South Carolina State made one last push, slicing its deficit to just two with 4:32 to go, but mustered up just four points the rest of the way as the Pirates scored 10 of the final 14 points to seal the win.

Up Next
East Carolina hosts Canisius Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.

Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Joe Dooley

Opening Statement
“I thought South Carolina State did some good things. They played with great pace. But I told our guys that I am not happy with how we performed. I was not impressed. We did not play like we are capable. They did do some things we had not seen yet though. Some stuff that was not in the film. I saw a lot of things in today’s game that were not there in the preseason, and I hope I don’t see them again.”

Thoughts on Team’s Play in Transition
“Well, I thought we played with better pace. We also got outscored in transition some of the time. We gave up seven layups in the transition in the first half alone. That is a drill we do every practice, but it looked like we were caught off guard. At one point they were shooting 58 percent, but we got that down in the mid 30s by halftime.”

On the Acclimation Process
“There is a process but it’s simple too. If your teammate is a little more open, make one more pass. Throw the ball to an open guy. Just simple things that take time. I asked if it would be different playing in front of a crowd and they said it did. They need to get used to it pretty quick because there will be a lot bigger crowds in upcoming games this season.”

On Forcing 16 Turnovers
“You have to be pleased. Take away those layups, easy baskets and a few of their drives at the end where we weren’t going to foul. Once we got our feet set, we played better. We just need to tighten up in transition.”

On Brandon Johnson
“He was awesome. He is a puppy, but he is going to be a good player. He just needs repetition and confidence. He is a freshman, but he adjusted to the speed of the game quickly. I think he was jittery early, but the more he plays, the better he plays.”

Senior Guard J.J. Miles

On Opening with a Win
“It’s always good to start the season off with a win to build that confidence. Like you said though, after the win, we need to go in and clean up our mistakes. It was a great first win for our guys, though.”

On Shooting Confidently
“We get a lot of shots up in practice, so we build that confidence. My teammates also do a good job keeping confidence in myself. Coach always tells me to keep shooting when I’m open.”

Senior Forward Vance Jackson

On his First Game as a Pirate
“I wasn’t nervous at all. It just felt good. It felt good to go out there in front of the fans and to get that win. It was kind of ugly, but we are going to fix it like J.J. said.”

On what to Work on Going Forward
“I thought we did some great things but there are things we have to work on. Coach Dooley will get on us and we’ll watch a lot of film. You best believe we’ll fix our mistakes and be prepared for the next game.”

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