East Carolina Loses Heartbreaker to No. 23 Wake Forest 58-54
Jan. 3, 2006
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Trent Strickland made all the big plays on both ends of the court, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds to help No. 23 Wake Forest hold off pesky East Carolina 58-54 on Tuesday night.
Eric Williams added 13 points and had the go-ahead free throw despite making only five of 13 from the line for the Demon Deacons (11-2), who tuned up for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener against No. 1 Duke with an uninspired effort.
Wake Forest improved to 4-0 against the Pirates (5-7), and although the teams haven't met in 20 years, two of the previous three games were decided by five points or less. This one followed that theme.
East Carolina, playing hard for first-year coach and former Deacons assistant Ricky Stokes, had won two in a row following a five-game losing streak. The chances certainly were there for one of the biggest upsets in school history, but a few untimely turnovers and some missed shots sent the Pirates to a heartbreaking loss.
The schedule doesn't get any easier, either. They host No. 4 Memphis in about a week when they open play in Conference USA.
Courtney Captain led the Pirates with 14 points, and Jeremy Ingram, who played one season at Wake Forest before transferring, had 10. Captain's 3-pointer with about 4 minutes left gave East Carolina its final lead at 54-52, but those were its final points.
Strickland tied the game with a follow of a miss by Justin Gray, then helped Wake Forest get the ball back by forcing a turnover by Tom Hammonds. Strickland fed Williams in the post on the ensuing possession, and after a foul by Jonathan Hart, Williams made the second free throw to give the Deacons the lead for good.
Gray, who was 1-for-10 from the field, made two free throws and Chris Ellis added one to complete the scoring.
Each time Wake Forest appeared ready to pull away, the Pirates had an answer. They fell behind 24-16 late in the first half before Captain made a 3 and Hart turned a steal into a breakaway dunk. Strickland had a putback for the Deacons, but Ingram got free for a slam and Captain added another jumper to cut East Carolina's deficit to one at halftime.
The second half was more of the same. Williams powered for a layup as he was fouled and converted the free throw for a three-point play, but the Pirates again came back.
Ingram matched Williams' three-point play after following up a miss by Sam Hinnant, then scored in close to give East Carolina its first lead since 2 1/2 minutes into the second half. It stayed close from there, with seven ties and 14 lead changes the rest of the way.