ECU hoping to heat up

Published 8:38 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011

East Carolina’s Shamarr Bowden (20) shoots during the team’s win over Coker. Making shots has been an issue for the Pirates this season and they will try improve on that before their Dec. 16 game at UNC-Greensboro. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — It would be easy to say the Pirates shot themselves in the foot in their loss to UMass Tuesday, but that would imply that they would have hit their target.
With the defeat, East Carolina (4-4) has now dropped three straight games, with poor shooting being the trademark in each contest. The Pirates’ slide began with a 63-58 loss to Old Dominion, which was followed by a 76-64 defeat at the hands of Charlotte before losing to UMass 63-58 on Tuesday. During that stretch, ECU has shot a combined 33.5 percent from the floor, 26.9 percent from three-point range and a dreaded 55 percent from the free throw line.
The Pirates, who have not beaten a Div. I team so far this season, won’t be on the court again until they play at UNC-Greensboro on Dec. 16 and ECU’s second-year coach Jeff Lebo said solving his team’s shooting woes will be a top priority during the break.
“We can’t score. How are you supposed to win when you’re scoring in the 50s? It’s hard, really hard,” Lebo said after the loss to UMass. “We have to find someone that can put the ball in the basket. It’s frustrating for the coach and frustrating for the players when that ball doesn’t go in.”
Despite the cold spell, East Carolina has been in each game it has played, which is encouraging but at the same time frustrating.
“The ones we have lost have all been close games, plus or minus for or five points with five minutes to go and we haven’t been able to make the plays or the shots to win those games,” Lebo said.
Despite his 0-8 performance against Charlotte, senior center Darrius Morrow leads the team in field goal percentage shooting 51 percent from the floor and is second on the Pirates in scoring with 12 points per game.
Big men generally shoot a higher percentage because they are always closer to basket. It’s when you look at the ECU guards that you see a big dip in shooting percentage.
East Carolina junior point guard Miguel Paul is posting a team-high 16.1 points per game but is shooting a chilly 37 percent, by far the lowest of any starter.
Aside from Morrow, no other Pirate that has played over 30 minutes this season is shooting over the 50 percent mark. Backup center Austin Steed is second to Morrow as he is shooting 48 percent. Junior guard Erin Straughn leads the perimeter players, making 46 percent of his shots to average 6.9 points per game.
Straughn has also been the team’s most accurate three-point shooter. The 6-6 guard leads all players with 10 or more three-point attempts by making 46 percent (8-25) of his shots. Surprisingly, after Straughn is 6-8 sophomore forward Robert Sampson who has converted on five of his 12 attempts (41 percent) so for this season.
Of the guys who make a living taking the outside shot, junior guard Shamarr Bowden has been the most accurate, converting on 15 of his 38 attempts (39 percent). Paul is right behind him as he has made 20 of his 52 attempts (38 percent) and trailing them is freshman guard Paris Roberts-Campbell who has connected on only 10 of his 40 three-pointers (25 percent).
By jacking up 190 three-point shots, the Pirates have taken the most of any Conference USA team, and by making 60 of those attempts, rank eighth in three-point shooting percentage (31 percent).
From the floor, East Carolina has made 41 percent of its shots to place ninth in the 12-team conference. ECU ranks 10th in free throw percentage by making a staggeringly low 62 percent of its attempts.
A lot of times a missed free throw can be attributed to a player’s mentality, not his mechanics, which is why Lebo said he will not increase the amount of time the team practices free throws during its break.
“It’s like putting: you either know how to do it now or … If you start coaching it and doing all that stuff to it, it can put you off the green,” Lebo said. “Anytime that I’ve had teams that I have had to address free throw shooting it usually gets worse.”
Hopefully for the Pirates and their fans, Lebo will not have to do that.