East Carolina looks to end drought against NC Central
Pirates will play their final non-conference game of the season on Monday night
Following four consecutive losses, first-year coach Jeff Lebo and East Carolina will look to get back into the win column on Monday night when it travels to Durham to face North Carolina Central.
Despite their current dry spell, the Pirates (7-6) have shown significant improvement--especially on the defensive end--under their new regime. The drought includes last-second losses at Coastal Carolina and George Washington. They were competitive in their other defeats, which were at home against Old Dominion and at Clemson.
Senior shooting guard Jontae Sherrod has continued to have a stellar final season. Sherrod, who has scored nearly 18 points per game over the last three contests, leads the club with his scoring mark of 13.5. He has made a team-high 27 three-pointers while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. Jamar Abrams and Darrius Morrow also average in double figures for East Carolina. Abrams, a senior swingman, puts up 10.5 points and has hit 26 trifectas. He is also third on the team with 4.1 rebounds. Morrow, a 6'8" junior, produces 10.6 points and 5.3 boards. He has attempted a team-high 73 free throws.
The Pirates must take better care of the basketball against the Eagles. They have been plagued by turnovers, as they've committed nearly 16 per contest during their four-game losing streak. Senior Brock Young and sophomore Corvonn Gaines have split time at the point with Young recovering from knee surgery. They each average 3.5 assists.
NCCU (5-6) has played an extremely challenging non-conference schedule. The Eagles have made road trips to Oklahoma, Indiana, Miami (FL) and Michigan. They lost three of those games by atleast 16 points, but they did manage to take the Sooners to overtime before falling by eight.
The Eagles are led by the strong backcourt combination of C.J. Wilkerson and Landon Clement--both of whom average more than 15 points per game. Wilkerson tops the team with his 16.3 mark. Clement, who pours in 15.8, has hit a club-high 36 three-pointers while shooting over 40 percent from deep.
Nick Chasten, a 6'7" junior, also averages in double figures at ten points per contest. He pulls down a team-high 6.9 boards.
Justin Leemow leads NCCU in assists (4.8) and steals (2.7) while big (6'8", 250) David Best provides help for Chasten on the interior.
The Eagles have also struggled to take care of the basketball, as they're committing 17 turnovers per game.
Final Analysis and Prediction
If East Carolina continues to play the way it has been playing, it should snap its four-game losing streak before beginning Conference USA play this weekend at league power Memphis. However, the Pirates must continue to play with the same intensity because North Carolina Central will be playing the biggest home game in its program's history. The Eagles, who are making the transition from Division II to Division I in the last few years, will be playing their first home contest versus a Division I opponent this season. They do possess a very strong backcourt so East Carolina's backcourt of Sherrod, Gaines, Young and company must be up to the challenge. The Pirates also need to start strong to hopefully limit the confidence and homecourt advantage of the Eagles. NCCU is getting outrebounded by nearly seven boards per game so the Pirates should have an advantage there if they continue to play with the same effort they have exhibited to date.
East Carolina 78 North Carolina Central 65