Pirates head home to face UCF|ECU looking to rebound from loss to SMU

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE – The momentum from the Pirates thrilling 74-70 come-from-behind victory against Houston on Saturday didn’t last long as East Carolina fell to SMU 46-41 on Wednesday.
After overcoming a 12-point deficit against the Cougars to steal a win, the Pirates had the tables turned on them as the Mustangs rallied back from a 13-point second half deficit to up end East Carolina.
The Pirates (12-10, 4-4) had a miserable shooting night a the team made only 12 of its 47 shot attempts from the field to score a season-low 41 points.
Forward Jamar Abrams, who is usually one of ECU’s most dangerous three-point shooters, highlighted the team’s struggles as he was 0-7 from the floor and 0-5 from downtown as he finished the game with zero points.
“It was a frustrating night on the offensive end,” East Carolina first-year coach Jeff Lebo said. “Defensively we were really good for a majority of the game. We had many chances. We missed layups, we missed open threes, we turned the ball over, especially in the second half we just couldn’t get anything to go offensively.”
Senior point guard Brock Young, who shot 4 for 12 on the game and 2-8 from three-point land, was the only Pirate to score over double digits with 15.
East Carolina’s leading scorer Jontae Sherrod, who was battling a cold and an ankle injury sustained in the Houston game, scored eight points in 25 minutes.
The Mustangs (14-8, 5-3) who were led by center Papa Dia who netted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, where able to impose their slow, halfcourt style of play on the Pirates.
“They play the Princeton style offense and really work you on the offensive side of the ball. You have to guard them for long periods of time,” Lebo said. “Defensively they do the same thing. They mix up their defenses and made us work around the ball. We had to score at the end of shot clocks a lot and create some things by ourselves and we just didn’t do that.”
As for Abrams’ struggles, Lebo said he will allow the forward to shoot himself out of the slump.
“He’s just got to keep shooting, he’s such a big part of what we do. I think he’s 0 for his last 11 and he comes in today at practice and makes 14 in a row,” Lebo said. “We have confidence in him. We have seen him do it and you have seen him do it for his whole career.”
Abrams and the rest of the Pirates will look to rebound tonight against an inconsistent and youthful Central Florida team that at one point was ranked No. 19 in the country, but now stands at dead-last in the Conference USA standings with a 14-6 (1-6) record.
The Pirates topped the Knights already this season, 74-61 on Jan. 19 when the team was still ranked.
UCF heads into this game spiraling on a six-game losing streak. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Knights headed to Texas to play UTEP on Wednesday, but the game was canceled due to snow storms.
“(The Knights) haven’t been shooting as well (since the beginning of the season) If you look at their shooting percentages they have dipped since the beginning of the year,” Lebo said. “Like most teams, I think they are looking for some confidence right now. I think when they lost one or two in a row their confidence was shaking a little bit, but they are certainly a capable team. They can turn it on a dime as soon as they get their first ‘W.’ … They are very talented.”
The Knights talent centers around its sophomore center/forward Keith Clanton and another talented sophomore in guard Marcus Jordan, the son NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Clanton is averaging 15 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a night, while Jordan is posting 15.7 points per game.
The Pirates also have the son of an NBA star on their team in Robert Sampson, the son of Ralph Sampson.
“I don’t think the kids (put any stock in it), but it’s really weird as a coach to look out their and see those two out there on the court. It’s kind of odd, makes you realize how old you are,” Lebo joked.