East Carolina looks for better D against winless Radford

·2 min read

It's a credit to East Carolina's talent level that after the Pirates crushed Division III North Carolina Wesleyan 91-62 earlier this week, coach Joe Dooley was able to find areas of improvement for his team.

"There were some really good things, but I was very disappointed in our defense," Dooley told The Daily Reflector.

The Pirates allowed the Battling Bishops to shoot 49 percent (24 of 49) from the floor and 38.5 percent (5 of 13) from 3-point range. Dooley's Pirates (2-0) will look to tighten things up when they host Radford on Saturday in Greenville, N.C.

Jayden Gardner has led the Pirates in scoring at 22.5 points per game so far, while Tristen Newton has averaged 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds. But another player who could give Radford some trouble is point guard Tremont Robinson-Wright, who in 23 minutes of average playing time has 14 assists and no turnovers.

East Carolina has turned the ball over just 19 times this season, and Dooley is looking for more of that type of ball protection.

"I talk to the guys all the time that if we don't turn it over, we can shoot it," Dooley said. "The ball is moving, and 24 assists (versus Wesleyan) was a good number. Our percentages from the field (51.5) and from the 3-point arc (39.1) were good numbers."

Off to an 0-3 start, Radford has underperformed so far in relation to its sixth-place preseason ranking in the Big South. If there's been one bugaboo for the Highlanders it has been first halves -- Radford has been outscored 105-76 before halftime, but has outscored its opponents 99-96 in second halves.

Most recently that problem cost the Highlanders against James Madison. Radford trailed 34-25 and went on to lose 67-59, winning the second half 34-33.

"Obviously it's not the outcome we wanted," coach Mike Jones said. "We've learned that we have a team that is willing to fight to the end. We've been down a lot in these last two games and we've fought back every time. Unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot tonight. I think we shot ourselves in the foot when we got it down to one or two possessions. We just can't do that against a good team."

Quinton Morton-Robertson (11.5 points per game) and Fah'Mir Ali (11.3) are Radford's leading scorers, while Lewis Djonkam might be finding his groove after posting his first career double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) against James Madison.

--Field Level Media