ECU loses to Indiana State in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Showcase

East Carolina ended up making a game but fell 79-75 in the second half to Indiana State in Monday afternoon’s opening round of the Gulf Coast Showcase.

The Sycamores (4-0) led from start to finish, taking a 16-point lead late in the second half – 65-49 – before the Pirates (3-1) charged back to cut the deficit to three in the last minute. But the state of Indiana responded with enough insult down the line to back out. ECU made it to the free-throw line 38 times compared to Indiana State 26 times but made only 24 attempts, leaving 14 potential points on the table with a 63.2 percent win rate. Indiana State converted 20 of 26 attempts from the streak (76.9 percent).

ECU plays Toledo, a team receiving the top 25 votes, on day two of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Tuesday at 11:00 am ET.

“Two things we just talked about in the dressing room – we didn’t take any free throws and we can’t get that back now.” Michael Black said on the 107.9 WNCT Postgame Show. “And on the other side of the ball, we weren’t guarding the ball. We got the game exactly how we wanted in terms of the defensive game plan to get them off the 3-point line. They did seven 3s all game and we wanted to do that because they are a dynamic shooting team. We could guard her at the post office.

“The only thing we didn’t do was guard the ball in the middle of the floor, one on one from dribbling. That was the #1 emphasis on defense. That was the difference in the game. Free throws and not guarding the ball.”

ECU scored a game- and career-high 27 points from the guard Javon Klein, who made 7-of-11 field goal attempts. He also added six rebounds and two steals with three turnovers. Brandon Johnson added 12 points and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double. Quentin Diboundje scored 12 points with three rebounds. Calib LaCount scored 13 points.

The Pirates shot 42.3 percent from the field but only 7 of 22 (31.8 percent) from 3-point range. Indiana State, which came into the game with 38 percent from 3 points and averaged more than 80 points per game, shot 43.3 percent from the floor. The Sycamores only made 7 of 28 from the 3-point range.

Leading scorer in the US state of Indiana Courvoisier McCauley ended with 16 points and seven boards. He scored 4 of 13 field goals.

“Teams will score,” Schwartz said. “It’s just a question of whether they’re going to do it on their terms or on our terms. I thought we mostly kept it on our terms, except for the fact that we didn’t guard the basketball in dribbling situations.

“They can keep a leading scorer off the field on 4 of 13 and he only hits two 3s, that was on our terms. But you flip it and you miss free throws and you amplify it by not guarding the basketball with half a dozen possessions at the level we should have, here’s what happens.”

With 73-65 and 2:33 left, ECU fought back with three points from Johnson and two Bayela free throws to make it a 73-70 game with 1:14 left. But Indiana State responded with a contested layup, and ECU again failed to score and missed two more free throw attempts until LaCount’s LaCount hit a layup with six seconds left.

The Pirates have committed 17 turnovers to Indiana’s 11.