ECU Travels to FedEx Forum for a 9pm Tilt with Memphis on ESPNU
ECU hits the road for the first of a two game American Conference road swing when the Pirates take on Memphis Thursday night at the FedEx Forum.
The Tigers are coached by legendary former Memphis player and NBA great Penny Hardaway. They enter the game with a 9-6 overall record and 1-1 in league play after a 90-77 loss at 15-1 (19)Houston. Kareem Brewton Jr. led the Tigers with 25 points to go along with 17 from Kevin Davenport and 16 points from Jeremiah Martin.
Brewton had only been averaging just under nine points an outing, so his performance was a bit of a surprise and could be a sign of things to come. The trifecta of Kyvon Davenport who leads Memphis both points and rebounding at 15.4 and 7.6 boards, Jeremiah Martin at 14.7 and Tyler Harris who checks in at 13.4 points per game comprise the three top scorers for the Tigers.
The Tigers rank 88th in the country in field goal percentage at 46.8 percent and just 181st in 3-point percentage at 34.1 percent. Memphis comes in at 38th in points scored and 99th in rebounding at 37.7 boards per game.
The thing ECU is starting to do better is shoot the basketball. K.J. Davis’ return at guard has been key in the Pirates’ improvement at the arc. Shawn Williams is starting to heat up as well. Williams was ever dangerous last season and came away winning the Freshman of the Year award in the AAC. Even Isaac Fleming is shooting a little better from outside and he comes in at just under eight points per contest and 3.4 assists.
If ECU can continue to hit a better percentage of outside shots, it will free up Jayden Gardner and Seth LeDay to do some damage in the paint.
But hitting shots on the road has been a longstanding issue for ECU that many times shoots as if they missed the pregame meal on the road. One gets the sense that this Pirate team is beginning to turn the corner and if so, that would be good news for a league that wants ECU to lift their record for strength of conference purposes.
ECU’s victory over Cincinnati last weekend could be a sign of things to come. The Pirates forced sixteen Bearcat turnovers and scored fifteen fast break points in a hard fought 73-71 victory.
K.J. Davis came off the bench to lead ECU with 17 points. Davis was one of four players in double digits. Shawn Williams scored 16, Seth LeDay had 11 and Jayden Gardner added 13 second half points after going scoreless in the first twenty minutes. Gardner also pulled down twelve boards including eight rebounds in the last twenty minutes of the game for a Pirate team that hit 51 percent of their shots and 40.9 percent from the arc on 9 of 22 shooting.
ECU got 25 of their total points from their bench. That is a trend that could bode well, but the first order of business is finding a way to translate that home win to the road. Nobody knows that better than Joe Dooley and he talked about finding a way to make that happen more often moving forward including Thursday night against the Tigers.
“That’s the next challenge. We’ve been on the road four times. We’ve got to figure out some things. I think the big thing is a lot more reps. You’ve played Cincinnati, you see what it’s really like and now you go to Memphis and UCF and they’re a little different,” Dooley told PirateIllustrated.com, “Now how do you translate it? It’s not turning it over, it’s making open shots, it’s not panicking when things go wrong. Those are all things that factor in.”
According to Dooley, a lot of this transition lies between the five inches between the ears.
“We’ve got to develop a belief in our program. Our guys have to develop a belief that we can win. I talked to our guys and said let’s just try to get better ever day."
Gardner leads the Pirates at 18.4 points a game to go along with just under nine rebounds. He is followed by Shawn Williams at 13.8 points and is also leading the team at 92.3 percent from the charity stripe. Seth LeDay has recently been inserted into the starting lineup and is averaging 12.1 points and 6.7 boards mostly off the bench.
Davis, who has now improved to 9.2 points per game, talked about taking the next step and that is finding ways to win in the tough AAC on the road.
“I think that’s another big test for us is winning on the road,” Davis told PI, “We just proved that we can beat one of the best teams in our conference, so if we can remain poised on the road and fight back when we get down and know how to keep that lead on the road that will be big for us.”
Game time is 9 o’clock on ESPNU.