ECU to take on N.C. State at Classic|Injuries taking a toll on Pirates

Published 6:17 am Thursday, November 18, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — It’s only the third game of the year but the East Carolina basketball team is already about to play one of its biggest of the season.
After topping Erskine 85-58 in their season opener, then beating Campbell 76-63 on Monday, the Pirates (2-0) will head out to South Carolina to take on ACC, in-state rival N.C. State (1-0) in the first round of the 2010 Charleston Classic today at 6 p.m.
Joining ECU and N.C. State in the Classic will be Charlotte, George Mason, Coastal Carolina, Georgetown, USC Upstate and Wolford.
Under first year head coach Jeff Lebo, East Carolina has been able to win its first two games of the season, both at home, despite not having the services of star point guard Brock Young.
Young, ECU’s all-time assist leader, had knee surgery during the offseason to repair a torn meniscus, but has had to have his knee drained twice since the start of the preseason.
Young was the Pirates leading scorer last season with a 15.5 points per game average, and led Conference USA in assists with 5.5 a game.
The senior point guard played for only 14 minutes versus Erskine and had two points and four assists. Young was expected to play versus Campbell, but due to soreness in the knee he was kept out of the lineup. Whether or not Young plays tonight is expected to be a game-time decision.
Joining Young on the injury list is 6-7 junior forward Daquan Joyner, who sustained a foot injury and is out indefinitely, and senior center Chad Wynn, who hurt his foot during the season opener. Those team injuries leave ECU extremely thin in the post heading into the Classic.
Sophomore guard Corvonn Gaines has done a nice job leading the team in Young’s absence. Against the Camels, Gaines played for the entire 40 minutes and scored 11 points while dishing out five assists and swiping an impressive six steals. However, Gaines also had six turnovers.
“I thought Corvonn Gaines was terrific,” Lebo said on Monday night. “He played 40 minutes and ran the team very well. We have practiced so much without Brock that I don’t think it was a shock to our team when we had to play without him.”
Senior guard Jontae Sherrod has been the Pirates main point producer as he scored a game-high 21 points in the win over Campbell and leads the team with a 15 points per game average.
Sophomore Erin Straughn, who stands at 6-6, 205 pounds, has been asked to lend a hand in the paint and did a nice job on Monday as he pulled down a team-high six rebounds, while he was second on the team in scoring with 12 points. On the season, Straughn is posting a team-best seven rebounds a night average.
Straughn, along with senior forward Jamar Abrams, are both second on the team in scoring as they have tallied 12 points per contest.
East Carolina will begin the Classic against the Wolfpack, which holds an 18-1 lifetime record over the Pirates.
ECU’s lone win over State came in the 2007-08 season when it won 87-75 in the only contest between the schools ever to be held in Greenville.
The Wolfpack is coached by Sydney Lowe and feature a highly touted freshman class led by C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown.
“N.C. State is terrific,” Lebo said. “They got three of the top freshmen in the country. I have seen those kids play: Leslie, Harrow, and Brown. It just makes them a different team … They have some weapons this year that they haven’t had in the past. .. They can score on the perimeter now with those freshmen guards and they can score on the inside with Tracey Smith who is capable of scoring 18-20 on any given night.”
The Wolfpack opened its season on Friday with an 82-69 win over Tennessee Tech, a team Lebo coached from 1998-2002.
Leslie led the team in scoring with 21 points, while Harrow added 16 and Brown tallied 14 points.
The winner of Thursday’s matchup will take on either Charlotte or George Mason on Friday.