ECU set to face Southern Miss

Published 4:24 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

With Memphis exiting the Conference USA for the American Athletic Conference, Southern Miss is this year’s team to beat for the Pirates in conference play.

The Golden Eagles have spent the last three years in the shadow of the perennial powerhouse Tigers. This season, Southern Miss is looking to capitalize on their absence and secure their first conference title.

The Pirates enter Saturday’s matchup looking to pick up their first C-USA win after dropping three-straight to Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. During that three-game skid, the Pirate defense has been stagnant, allowing 76 points per game.

Against Southern Miss, forwards Caleb White and Michael Zangari will have to find a way to contain the Golden Eagles balanced offensive attack. Southern Miss, led by forward Michael Craig’s 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, has five scoring options, all which average more than nine points a contest.

Head Coach Jeff Lebo’s team will have to rely on consistent perimeter shooting from standout guard Akeem Richmond, who is averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting about 40 percent from behind the arch, and better rebounding from the ECU bigs in the paint.

The X-factor for the Pirates on offense will be guard Paris Campbell-Roberts and whether or not he can mirror his performance 15-point seven-rebound performance against Florida International last Saturday. Campbell-Roberts has been Lebo’s senior leader this season, and the Pirates need a big game from their starting point guard to have any chance of knocking off Southern Miss on Saturday.

After a slow start to the season and the absence of Memphis, this is a statement game for the Pirates. Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. in Minges Coliseum.