East Carolina hoops set to host Charlotte|Pirates look to extend win streak

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The Pirates head into the third game of their five-game home stand riding the momentum of a three-game wining streak that was the result of a consistent, balanced effort on both sides of the ball.
East Carolina (5-2) will look to extend that streak tonight when it takes on UNC-Charlotte (7 p.m.), a team that already beat the Pirates once this season when it topped them 74-63 in the Charleston Classic on Nov. 19.
ECU struggled at the Classic, but was able to win its last game in Charleston when it topped USC Upstate 75-67, allowing the team to end the tournament on a high note.
The Pirates built on that win by blowing by Lenoir-Rhyne 71-48 in their return home, then followed up on that effort with an 81-54 romp over UNC-Greensboro their last time out.
Granted, East Carolina’s last two wins have come over sub-par competition as Lenoir-Rhyne is a Div. II team, while UNC-Greensboro came into Greenville winless and left the same way. However, ECU did what it was supposed to do and handily beat inferior competition.
Tonight’s game against Charlotte comes at a god time and should provide a sturdy measuring stick for East Carolina.
The 49ers (3-4) come into town led by first-year coach Alan Major. Major took over for the departed Bobby Lutz, a coach some Pirates fans wanted to run their program instead of the newly-hired Jeff Lebo.
Charlotte has made some headlines of late as its star guard Shamari Spears was dismissed from the program over the weekend for breaking team rules. Spears, a 6-6 senior, led the team with 17 points per game and scored 15 against ECU in the Classic.
The Pirates have gotten contributions from everyone in their last two games as 11 players posted points during their win over Lenoir-Rhyne, while 10 players entered the scoring column against UNC-Greensboro.
Senior guard Jontae Sherrod has paced the Pirates in scoring by tallying 12.9 points per game, while senior forward Jamar Abrams is second on the team with 10.6 points a night.
Junior power forward Darrius Morrow, whose dedication to conditioning has come under question of late, is third on the team with a 10 points per game average to go along with his team-leading 5.3 rebounds.
Morrow took some heat after looking slow against Lenoir-Rhyne, but came with a strong performance against UNCG by scoring a game-high 21 point and grabbing five rebounds.
Lebo has maintained an emphasis on post play all season but the team hasn’t always responded. Whether it be the guards not being able to make the entry pass, or the big men not establishing position, the play in the paint has been inconsistent.
On Saturday, the Pirates did a much better job of working the ball inside and dominating down low. Aside from Morrow’s 21 points, ECU out-rebounded the Spartans 41-25 and out-scored them 36-12 in the paint.
After the game, Lebo said he would like to continue to make Morrow and the other ECU big men a focal point in the offense.
“We have to establish him inside,” Lebo said. “To do that we have to do our part on the perimeter and he has to do his part to continue to work. Post players have to learn that every time they are open they are not going to get the ball. They have to continue to work. While they may not get it this time from the wing, they may get it from the top and continue to work from the top. .. They can’t get disappointed when they don’t get it each time.”
While ECU’s play in the paint has been better, so has its shooting. The Pirates shot 54 percent from the field against UNCG and 50 percent from downtown.
Senior point guard Brock Young, who had knee surgery during the preseason, has looked a little better each game and seems to be building confidence not only in his shot but in his repaired knee.
Sophomore guard/forward Erin Straughn has quietly been a key contributer to this team. The 6-6, 205 pound sophomore has chipped in seven points a night and is second on the team with five rebounds a night.
After Wednesday night’s game East Carolina will host Fayetteville State on Saturday (1 p.m.), then take finish up its home stand against Old Dominion on Tuesday (7 p.m.) Before it hits the road to play Coastal Carolina on Dec. 19.