Pirates return to Minges to take on Tulane
East Carolina will be playing its first home game since December 7th
After not playing a home game in well over a month, East Carolina will finally return to the friendly confines of Williams Arena-Minges Coliseum when it hosts Tulane at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Pirates (8-7, 0-1) have lost five of their last six and went just 1-4 in their lengthy road trip spanning the Christmas break. However, they dropped three of those games by a combined six points. They fell on last-second shots at Coastal Carolina and George Washington before not being able to make enough plays on the offensive end to manage the upset in a 61-58 loss at Memphis last Saturday.
Jeff Lebo's club has been led by senior guard Jontae Sherrod and his 13.4 per game mark. Despite being the target of opposing game plans, the veteran has managed to hit a team-high 33 trifectas while he is converting over 41 percent of his attempts. Darrius Morrow, who has improved his conditioning significantly, averages 10.9 points and is the team's top rebounder with 5.5 per contest. Senior swingman Jamar Abrams also averages in double figures with 11.2 per game and is the team's second-best three-point shooter. He is shooting a stellar 40 percent from beyond the arc. Corvonn Gaines and Brock Young have split time at the point and each average 3.5 assists.
With the exception of their 82-80 loss at George Washington, the Pirates struggled to put the ball in the basket during their road trip as they failed to reach the 60-point plateau in the other four contests. They have shot below 40 percent in each of the last three games, but have been competitive thanks to their improvement on the defensive end.
Tulane (12-4, 2-1), which is 4-3 away from Fogelman Arena, is off to one of its best start in years under first-year coach Ed Conroy. The Green Wave had won six straight prior to dropping a 69-58 decision to UTEP on Wednesday night in New Orleans. Conroy employs a four-guard scheme and his team is averaging nearly 75 points per contest.
Sophomore guard Kendall Thomas, who scored a combined 31 points in two games against East Carolina last season, leads the team in scoring (17.8), rebounding (8.9), and steals (2.1). Fellow sophomore Jordan Callahan has made the second-most three-pointers (22) and is posting 12.8 per contest. Senior Kris Richard, who shoots nearly 40 percent from deep and has 38 trifectas, averages 13.5. Tulane shares the basketball very well and each member of that trio has at least 42 assists. Callahan tops the club with 66.
The Pirates will need to put forth one of their best efforts of the season if they are going to beat a Tulane team that hasn't lost back-to-back games all year. East Carolina's defense must continue to be solid, but the Bucs will need to commit fewer fouls as the Green Wave gets to line regularly and convert their chances when they're there. With UAB coming in on Monday and road trips to UCF and Marshall to follow next week, the Pirates need to get the four-game in eight days stretch started right. They will be excited to play in front of the Pirate Nation for the first time in nearly 40 days and will pull it out down the stretch.
East Carolina 71 Tulane 67