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Pirates welcome back Dooley with a win

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East Carolina head coach Joe Dooley walks into Minges Coliseum before the Pirates' game against Delaware State on Nov. 6, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A not-so-new coach in Minges Coliseum got a boost from some new players for East Carolina’s basketball team on Tuesday night to begin a new season, and coach Joe Dooley’s second stint with the Pirates, with a victory.

ECU withstood Delaware State’s 34 3-point attempts and cruised from late in the first half through the final 20 minutes for an 81-56 win. The visitors finished 9-of-34 from outside, while a young ECU team had four double-digit scorers, led by 12 points each from Seth LeDay and Isaac Fleming. The Pirates also were 21-of-27 from the free throw line.

It marked Dooley’s 58th victory as head coach of the Pirates, adding a single win to his 57-52 record from 1995-99.

“It probably hit me six months ago, but once you get to a game, you are just worried about that,” Dooley, who left Florida Gulf Coast for ECU in April, said of his emotions. “The time to reflect is always after the season. We’ll go back tonight and watch the tape for James Madison (Friday’s opponent) and that’s good because we have a win under our belt and have some things we have to get better at.

“I told the guys the same thing, that it is one (game). It has passed and you move on and try to figure out how to win the next one.”

The Pirates have won 20 straight season openers.

ECU guard Shawn Williams did not play. It was announced just before tip-off that Williams, last year’s American Athletic Conference rookie of the year, is on indefinite suspension for violation of team rules.

The Pirates’ starting lineup consisted of returning point guard Fleming and center Dimitri Spasojevic joined by freshmen Tyler Foster, Jayden Gardner and Tae Hardy. In all, East Carolina has 10 freshmen or sophomores on its roster.

“We’ll handle it and this was a little blip, because Shawn has done a good job and been about as helpful as anyone as I’ve been here,” Dooley said. “So he is remorseful and knows he hurt the team. We’ll be excited about getting him back.”

LeDay’s 12 points were complemented by eight rebounds and him going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Hardy had 11 points, and Gardner totaled six points and eight rebounds.

“I knew I was going to start right before the game when (Dooley) was talking about matchups, and I was just happy,” Hardy said.

ECU was 8-for-14 on 3-pointers.

The game’s leading scorer with 22 points was Delaware State’s Saleik Edwards, who prepped at J.H. Rose and South Central in Pitt County. The senior guard finished 6-for-13 from 3-point range.

The Hornets hit a 3 to open the scoring in the second half and cut ECU’s lead to 37-32, then Fleming scored four straight points to spark an 8-0 run that created a decisive 45-32 advantage.

It was 58-42 East Carolina with 10:37 remaining.

With Williams sitting on the bench but not in uniform, Hardy stepped up early for the Pirates with a couple of big shots. Big man Justin Whatley made both of his 3-point attempts late in the opening half to help stake the Pirates to a 37-29 halftime lead.

ECU closed the half on a 12-4 run. Whatley’s 3 with 1:02 remaining created the 37-29 margin.

“For Justin Whatley to come out and shoot like that, that is big-time and that is what he does,” Fleming said.

ECU was 10-of-14 from the free throw line, while the visitors were 1-for-2.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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