Pirates to take on Eagles

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GREENVILLE — Tonight everything comes full circle for the Pirates, or at least they hope so, as they look to put an end to their five-game losing streak against the team it started against.
On Jan. 4, East Carolina (9-9, 0-5) took a five-game winning streak into its Conference USA opener on the road against Southern Miss but could not extended it to six as it fell 78-76. After that, the Pirates lost four straight and head into tonight’s rematch with the Golden Eagles (17-3, 4-1) in desperate need of a victory.
On Saturday, the Pirates nearly erased the zero from their C-USA win column as they stormed back from a 70-54 deficit against Houston but could not complete the rally as they fell 82-76 in a defeat that has been a microcosm of their league play.
“We’ve been competitive but we haven’t won,” East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said.
Slow starts and stretches of bad basketball have plagued the Pirates over the last five games and have forced them to put forth a tremendous effort just to get back in the contest.
“Quick threes and offensive rebounding have been the main (problems). We’ll have times were we have four- or five-minute scoring droughts were we don’t put the ball in the basket,” Lebo said. “We got to get to the foul line more … And we got to get some consistent production from our two position. Not just for scoring, but they have to defend and rebound and be tougher.”
Junior transfer Shamarr Bowden has received a bulk of the minutes at the shooting guard position, and while his 7.9 points per game is fourth on the team, he is averaging only 1.4 rebounds per contest and has a mere eight steals which is the lowest of anybody on the team that plays more than 10 minutes per game.
On Monday, Lebo called for his team to be more aggressive and display a better nose for the ball but he also wants to see his team play with more savvy.
“Our basketball IQ at times has been shaky at best; making really odd plays that end up costing you games,” Lebo said. “If a teams going to beat us, let’s have them beat us because they were better then we were for 40 minutes not because they were better than us for 30 minutes and then the other 10 we made dumb plays.”
The Pirates can’t let that happen tonight as they take on a red-hot Golden Eagles team that is off to its fourth-best start in school history.
“They’re the No. 1 RPI team in our league and 15th in the country. They’ve won more games than anybody in Conference USA. They’re good, they’re seasoned and they’re tough.” Lebo said.
In the first meeting between these two teams USM’s LaShay Page caught fire and buried six threes to score a team-high 20 points while Darnell Dodson added 17.
“The other thing that has hurt us is that we haven’t been disciplined enough to take away the other team’s best shooter and not allow open shots,” Lebo said. “Page killed us in the first game just off half-second breakdowns where he buried the three-point shot.”
The balanced Eagles feature five players scoring over double-digits as Page is averaging a team-best 13.4 points per game and is trailed by Dodson (11.8), Maurice Bolden (11), Neil Watson (10.7) and Jonathan Mills (10.6).
The Pirates are guided by junior point guard Miguel Paul whose 16.3 points per game is the third best average in C-USA, while his 5.5 assists per contest is tops.
Behind Paul is senior center Darrius Morrow who is tallying 13.5 points and 5.9 boards per night, while junior forward Maurice Kemp is posting 10.9 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game.