ECU men win on senior night

Caleb White saved his very best for last, and he let it all pour out on Wednesday night.

The East Carolina guard showered visiting Connecticut with a career-best 28 points on senior night in Minges Coliseum, leading an improbable 66-62 comeback triumph over the Huskies and marking the fourth win in seven games for the Pirates (14-16, 6-11 American Athletic Conference).

White knocked down seven 3-pointers in the game, four of them in the second half as ECU charged into the lead. His 3 from the left corner gave ECU its first lead since the opening sequence of the game, 46-43, but he didn’t act alone. Sophomore Kentrell Barkley scored the last several of his 18 points when it counted most, including connecting on one of his three long-range buckets to fizzle one last late lead by the Huskies (14-15, 9-8) and give the Pirates their final lead at 55-53.

“This is my 10th season, so I’m obviously vested here, not just in the program but in eastern North Carolina, and to be a part of a night like this — because there just haven’t been that many nights like this since I’ve been around here — is really rewarding for me but more so for the kids,” said interim ECU head coach Michael Perry, who has filled in for head coach Jeff Lebo (hip surgery) since early January. “You’re talking about playing against a team that was our league champion last year, an NCAA Tournament participant ... and they were NCAA Tournament champions just a few years ago. It speaks volumes to where this program is heading.”

In all, Barkley scored eight straight late points to help see ECU through one final stretch, and freshman guard Jeremy Sheppard (eight points) sealed the win from the free-throw line. But it was clear from the early moments this was White’s night.

“I prayed a lot, and I tried to just treat it as much as I could like another game,” White said of his career night. “I don’t know. They just kept going in so I just kept shooting them. Pretty much all of them felt good.”

After White’s 3 gave ECU the lead early in the second, Elijah Hughes canned another to make it 49-43 before Barkley’s long ball gave the Pirates their biggest edge of the night at 52-43. But the Huskies and leading scorers Kentan Facey, Jalen Adams and former N.C. State player Rodney Purvis (12 points each) helped jump-start a 10-0 run to give UConn its brief one-point lead.

Barkley’s and-one basket off a fast break made it 60-53 ECU, marked the Pirates’ last field goal of the game and also put the Huskies into foul mode. ECU got free throws from Andre Washington, Barkley, Hughes and Sheppard in the final four minutes.

ECU travels to Houston on Sunday to finish the regular season before the AAC tournament begins March 9.

The Pirates shot their way back into the game a couple of times in the opening 20 minutes, and it took an Adams jumper in the waning seconds to give the Huskies just a four-point cushion, 32-28, at the intermission.

Moments earlier, the teams had traded significant runs in an otherwise low-scoring, poor-shooting first half, including the Pirates’ second surge to keep the score close.

ECU fell behind by double digits, 23-13, with 6:34 left in the half, but that’s when White got white-hot. His drive and score was followed by a 3 that made it 23-18, and Sheppard’s trey that followed cut the lead back to two.

Facey’s pair of inside makes put the Huskies back on the hunt, pushing their lead back to 30-21, but Barkley got in on the act with a 3, and White knocked down another long ball from the left corner and was fouled, converting a 4-point play to make it 30-28.

It was White’s consecutive treys earlier in the game that forged a 13-13 tie and helped stem an early Connecticut spurt.

The ECU senior, who was honored during the pregame by Lebo and along with fellow seniors Washington and Michel Nzege, finished a dazzling half with 17 points, including 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. It was part of his team’s 6-of-17 effort in the first half.

Jackson and Facey evenly divided eight first-half points to lead UConn, and Huskies doubled the Pirates in points in the paint, 12-6.

Contact Nathan Summers at, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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