Defense powers Vikings by Big Blues
Elizabeth City State 71 Bluefield State 52
By Malcolm Shields
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Elizabeth City State men’s basketball coach John Hill noted that he has a young team.
With more than half the roster either freshman, sophomore or a first-year player with the Vikings, the inconsistency showed at times against Bluefield State on Saturday afternoon.
ECSU’s defensive effort, for the most part was, solid as it paced the Vikings to a 71-52 victory over Bluefield State at the Vaughan Center.
The Vikings (4-5) forced Bluefield State (3-8) into 19 turnovers, while holding the Big Blues to a sub par 33.3 percent (16-of-48) shooting from the field in the non-conference matchup.
Offensively, ECSU ebbed and flowed during the contest.
The Vikings shot 43.5 percent (27-of-62) from the field.
“We are really trying to find a rhythm,” Hill said. “But more importantly, we are trying to figure out the right way to play with the personnel and the talent that we have. We are trying to learn one another and learn how to play with one another in a way we can play to our strengths.”
When ECSU played to its strengths against Bluefield State, it staked the Vikings to a 20-point lead in the second half.
The Vikings began the second half with a 31-21 lead.
Off the strength of a 14-4 run, ECSU took a 45-25 advantage.
Shykeef Daniels capped the ECSU run with a 3-pointer in the right corner.
Some of the baskets for the Vikings in the run were off of ECSU’s pressure, which led to Big Blues turnovers.
“I was exceptionally pleased,” Hill said of his defense. The coach added that it is big for the team to turn their defense into offense.
The coach added that Saturday’s game was probably one of their better defensive efforts on the season.
The Big Blues countered with a run of its own as Bluefield State made it a 54-44 contest with less than nine minutes to go.
During the run, ECSU had reserves in the contest.
Some of the reserves are part of the new bunch of players in the program.
“We are trying to let them grow up on the job,” Hill said.
The Vikings closed out the contest with another run for the win.
One of the newcomers that appears to have entrenched himself in the starting lineup is freshman guard Zaccheus Hobbs, who scored 13 points with four assists.
Hobbs said that he played alright in stretches in the contest.
Hobbs, who led Northside High School in Jacksonville to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 2A state championship back in March, sees the difference between high school and college basketball.
“It’s faster. You have to pay attention to the shot clock. It’s more physical,” he said. “You have to be mentally ready and be prepared for anything that comes your way.”
Guard Shyheid Petteway led ECSU off the bench with 15 points and four rebounds.
Hill noted that Petteway, who is listed as a junior, could be in the starting lineup. His production off the bench is valuable.
“When he plays well, I think we’ve got a very, very good chance to win,” Hill said. “He played [Saturday] probably about as well as he has played all year.”
On the offensive end, was up and down in the first half.
With its starting lineup, ECSU jumped out to a 12-5 lead nearly eight minutes elapsed in the half.
Forward Jermaine Brown scored four of ECSU’s first six points in the game.
Brown finished with 10 points.
The Vikings went through a cold spell as Bluefield State took a 15-14 lead. The Vikings closed out the half with a run to take a 10-point lead at halftime.
Chris Melton led Bluefield State with 13 points.
ECSU enters the meat of Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association play on Thursday as they host Livingstone.
The game is the first of four consecutive games at home against CIAA teams.
Hill noted that the team has begun to play pretty good ball, but the team should not get too high or too low.
“We’ve got to be consistent in playing hard and giving a great effort every night,” he said.