Pirates prepare for George Mason

Published 11:34 am Saturday, November 22, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
So far so good for East Carolina basketball as it has won its first three games of the season and currently sits at the top of the Conference USA standings along with Memphis (3-0) and UAB (3-0).
The Pirates first four games on their schedule follow the same format as a Playstation game: The first level is a breeze, but you might need a few tries to beat the last one. However, ECU does not get the benefit of a do-over.
The Pirates breezed through their first two games as they ran past Div. II opponents Coker and St. Andrews.
East Carolina bumped up the level of competition in its third game when it hosted Div. I Campbell, but the results were the same as it recorded a convincing 86-65 win on Wednesday.
The degree of difficulty will no doubt be raised again today as ECU will play one of the toughest opponents it will have to face all season in George Mason.
The Patriots (2-1) will be coming in hot and heavy, as they were just upset by Hampton College 50-44 on Thursday night.
The Mason defense is the strength of the team, but it could not carry a flat offense past Hampton.
Junior forward Louis Birdsong led the team with 15 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while senior forward Darryl Monroe chipped in a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Monroe is off to as fast start this year as he leads Mason with an average of 12.7 points per game and 10 boards a night.
Senior guard John Vaughan is the team’s second leading scorer with 11 points per game.
The Patriots were America’s favorite Cinderella story in March of 2006, when they caught everybody by surprise and made a run to the Final Four.
Last year the Patriots were 23-11, won the Colonial Conference tournament and made it back to the NCAA tournament where they lost in the first round to Notre Dame.
One of those 11 loses came at the hands of ECU, who pulled off a 68-65 upset over Mason on Dec. 2.
East Carolina will have be on top of its game today if it wants to duplicate that feat.
Buried Treasure:
Deadly combination … As of Friday ECU seniors James Legan (17.7) and Sam Hinnant (17) were ranked eighth and ninth respectively in scoring in Conference USA. Better to give than receive … Sophomore point guard Brock Young is doing a nice job following Darrell Jenkins’ footsteps as he is second in the conference with 7.3 assists a night, right behind UTEP sophomore Julyan Stone (8 apg).
Overcompensating for something? … George Mason unveiled its new Mascot during its home opener against Brown on Nov. 18, a 7-foot, 240-pound green, yellow and white creature that according to its website “resembles a Patriot.” Mason is holding a month-long contests in which contests came submit their ideas for a name. Gunston was the team’s former mascot, and was green and fuzzy. Mason decided to scrap Gunston in favor of the 7-footer because it needed a mascot that “reflects patriotism in the 21st century.”