Pirates’ slide hits six

Published 10:38 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

East Carolina point guard Miguel Paul (with ball) shoots a jumper during the team’s 72-60 loss to Southern Miss. Paul finished the game with 21 points. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — The Pirates’ struggles behind the arc and on the glass continued on Wednesday and so did their losing streak as East Carolina dropped its sixth straight game by falling 72-60 to Southern Miss.
With the loss the Pirates now drop a game under .500 with a 9-10 record and remain winless in Conference USA play where they are 0-6.
Senior center Darrius Morrow played all 40 minutes for the Pirates and tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks but his effort was not enough to overcome Southern Miss’ 43-26 advantage on the boards.
Despite the tailspin, Morrow refused let himself or his teammates hang their heads.
“Of course nobody likes to lose at anything, that’s frustrating but we have to just keep working hard,” Morrow said. “The season doesn’t end tonight so we’re just going to keep fighting.”
East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo admitted that the skid is affecting him and his club but urged them to stay focused on the future.
“It weighs on everybody. It weighs on the team, they want to win and get in a game and have some positive things happen,” Lebo said. “You work hard and watch some film and prepare them to play and it does weigh on you. It’s hard, it’s not easy.
“But I told them no matter whether you have won six in a row or lost six in a row you can’t look back you can only focus on going forward and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Junior point guard Miguel Paul also had a big night for the East Carolina as he racked up a game-high 21 points to go along with his four assists but said that his team must do a better job on the boards.
“We’re just limited on bodies down low. Teams are big in this conference but we just have to find a way to rat out those rebounds. That’s what’s really killing us right now,” Paul said. “When the ball’s in the air we just have to get a little bit tougher.”
Aside from Paul and Morrow, small forward Erin Straughn was the only other Pirate to a reach a double-digit scoring total as his 14 points were the most he’s had against a Div. I opponent all season.
Southern Miss struck with a balanced attack as it had five players score 10 points or more and was led by Jonathan Mills who tallied 13 and Lashay Page who chipped in 12.
With the exception of Morrow, Paul and Straughn, the Pirates struggled to get points from any other player on its roster as the Eagles outscored the Pirates bench 37-6.
“Outside of those three we really didn’t have any production tonight,” Lebo said.
East Carolina was able to avoid a slow start which has been a big factor during its six-game slide and managed to hold a 17-13 lead after Morrow buried a jumper with 7:55 left in the first half.
That lead would not last much longer as USM went on a 14-1 run that would put it ahead 27-18 after a Neil Watson three.
Southern Miss would go on to take a 38-23 lead into the break.
In the second half the Pirates were able to cut the Eagles’ lead to seven after freshman Paris Roberts-Campbell’s jumper made it 48-41 midway through the half but they were never able to get any closer.
On Monday Lebo cited the need for his shooting guards to produce but on Wednesday that call was not answered as junior starting two guard Shamarr Bowden went 1-4 from three-point range and 1-6 overall to finish with five points in 29 minutes while his backup Roberts-Campbell went 0-2 from downtown and finished 1-5 from the floor two tally two points in 12 minutes.
“Shamarr Bowden and Paris Campbell are guys that we recruited to come in here and make some shots,” Lebo said. “Paris is just struggling mightily. Two (shots) he air-balled. I wish I knew the answer, I would sprinkle it on him.”
The Pirates will be back in action on Saturday when they play at UAB.