Pirates need big men to step up against N.C. State

Published 4:25 pm Saturday, December 8, 2007

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
After nearly 40 years of not getting a visit from an ACC team, East Carolina will get their second look at one today for the second time in three days as No. 24 N.C. State makes a trip to Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates did not fair so well in their last battle with an ACC foe as No. 18 Clemson punished them in the paint, outrebounding East Carolina 50-26 en route to an 82-67 victory.
The Pirates 3-5 record has them currently sitting in 10th place in Conference USA, the same place the Wolfpack’s 4-2 record has it in the ACC standings.
If East Carolina wants to jump up in the standings they will need an improved effort from its post players.
NCSU marches into today’s battle boasting a trio of front court players that each stand at 6-9.
Leading the way for the Wolfpack is freshman J.J Hickson, who is leading his team with 18.5 points per game along with eight boards a night.
Joining Hickson up front are fellow forwards Brandon Costner and Gavin Grant who are both averaging 10 points per game and five rebounds.
While the Wolfpack is loaded up front, the Pirates aren’t doing so badly themselves. Gabe Blair is quietly having a strong season as his 10.7 points, eight rebounds and 2.25 steals a night lead East Carolina.
Blair’s eight boards and 2.25 steals a night are both good enough for third place in all of C-USA.
Senior point guard Darrell Jenkins is also making some noise in C-USA as his seven assists per night leads the conference.
Jenkins could be able to up that average if his fellow teammates could find the basket. East Carolina is not getting nearly enough offensive production from John Fields (7.1 ppg.), Corey Farmer (7.1) and Sam Hinnant, whose 16 against Clemson raised average to 8.9 points per game.
If the Pirates want to bang with the Wolfpack in the paint the play of center Chad Wynn could be the key. Though his defense is not on par with Fields or Blair, Wynn is massive, and the only one who consistently looks to score with is back to the basket. Averaging only nine minutes a game, the ECU center is tallying four points and two rebounds a night. In 24 minutes a game Fields is only pulling down four rebounds.
East Carolina and N.C. State will meet today for the 18th time in their history, with the Wolfpack dominated the rivalry holding a 17-0 record versus the Pirates.
The Pirates made the Wolfpack work for their last win, as NCSU rallied back from a 15 point first half deficit to win 64-57.