Jeff Lebo's East Carolina Pirates hit the road for pair of Conference USA games in Florida against FAU on Thursday and FIU on Saturday. Catch a PirateIllustrated preview from Coach Jeff Lebo and more from Paris Roberts-Campbell and Akeem Richmond along with part two from Coach Lebo over on PI Premium. Join us!
GREENVILLE, N.C. - After opening ECU's final Conference USA season with a home loss to Old Dominion by eleven points, the Pirates will look to snap back when they hit the road to sunny Florida for a C-USA weekend set against FAU and FIU.
The Pirates enter at 11-5 while Mike Jarvis' Florida Atlantic team comes in at a polar opposite 5-11. It will be ECU's first foray into Boca Raton. The only previous game between East Carolina and Florida Atlantic came back in January of 1993 with Lester Lyons scoring 19 points to lead ECU to a 74-60 victory over FAU in Minges Coliseum.
East Carolina will then travel to Miami to take on Florida International for the first time Saturday afternoon at U.S. Century Bank Arena. Anthony Evans takes over after a stint as Norfolk State's head coach. ECU defeated Evans' Spartans in Greenville last season, 74-63.
"Hopefully we'll go down there and get to play and improve on our performance the last game and hopefully play well. We've got good guys. They learn from their mistakes. There are four areas of concern. Guarding the ball, having some ball screen defense that is acceptable, toughness defensively and trying to keep people away from the rim area," Lebo said, "We've got to do better at that. We're going to play some zone, but we've got some limitations in the zone too. We've got to have a toughness and an accountability and that's one thing we had last year."
Paris Roberts-Campbell seems to have snapped out of his mini-scoring slump after tossing in 21 vs Old Dominion in a game where PRC could have scored even more if leg cramps had not slowed him down considerably in the second half. Akeem Richmond came on to score 14 points in the second half after a scoreless first half but it was too little too, too late as the Pirates dropped their first C-USA game of the season.
FAU lost to Elon earlier this season and fell to Duke by 33. They lost at Maryland by six and by eleven to DePaul. The Owls do have wins over both UCF and Jacksonville along with a conference win over Rice, who they beat in their last outing by five points on the road.
The Owls are led by 6-3 guard Pablo Bertone who averages 18 points per game. Tallahassee guard Jackson Trapp is good for 10.3 points while 6-9 center Justin Raffington is scoring nearly ten points and eight boards per outing. 7-foot Baylor transfer Dragan Sekelja could factor into the game as well, averaging 6.3 points and six rebounds a game.
Florida Atlantic has called for a "blue out" for the ECU game on Thursday night, which is their first home C-USA basketball game since entering the league this year. The first 400 FAU students in attendance will receive a blue FAU t-shirt, courtesy of the Student Program Board. The Owls will then host ODU on Saturday.
ECU is averaging 83.6 points per game, hitting 47.3 percent from the floor and 38 percent from the arc. The Pirates are at 71.7 from the charity stripe for the season.
FAU comes in averaging 68.6 points, shooting nearly 43 percent from the floor and 31.4 percent from three-point land. The Owls are a 62.7 percent free throw shooting team.
FAU is averaging 13 turnovers a game to just 11 for ECU.
Florida International on Saturday
Tymell Murphy leads Florida International in scoring at 16.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds while leading Conference USA in field goal percentage at 60 percent. Rakeem Buckles is right behind him at a 13.2 point per game clip and 74 percent from the foul line.
FIU is a team who beat Georgia State, Stetson and Joe Dooley's Florida Gulf Coast team this season. They have an eleven point win over Rice this season while losing at South Carolina by 12, at Louisville by 29 and at Georgetown by 35.
FIU comes in at 9-8 overal. The Panthers are a team who like to pound it inside and rely less heavily on the three-point shot.
Expect an abundance of zone defense combinations from the Pirates in this one.
East Carolina will return home for a pair of C-USA encounters next week. The Pirates will host Tulane on Thursday and then it's what could be Southern Miss's last game for a while in Greenville next Saturday. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. starts.