East Carolina Hoops Preview
Struggling, short-handed Pirates travel to Raleigh to face in-state rival NC State
CUSA-fans.com has a new staff of team correspondents this fall to help bring you, the fan, more detailed Conference USA sports coverage. Today, our ECU Correspondent Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum previews the basketball game between East Carolina and NC State.
East Carolina (4-6) will carry a five-game losing streak into the RBC Center on Thursday night (Dec. 28) when it faces NC State and first year head coach Sidney Lowe.
The Pirates, who are coming off a 69-50 home loss to Winthrop last Thursday evening, have not won since they defeated Division II North Carolina Central on November 26th.
This will be the 17 th meeting between the two programs and the first since the 2004-2005 season. The Wolfpack lead the series 16-0 and won the last meeting 100-66 on November 19, 2004 in the title game of the BCA Classic in Raleigh.
NC State enters with a 7-4 overall mark and is 0-1 in the ACC. The Wolfpack started 5-0, but have lost four of their last six. On Saturday, Sidney Lowe’s club dropped an 80-71 decision at Cincinnati.
The Pack returns only one starter from last year’s 22-10 team that finished fourth in the ACC and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
NCSU is shooting nearly 51 percent as a team, but is only 32.5 percent from three-point range. They shoot free throws well, as they’re only a fraction under 70 percent as a team. They’re putting up 74.3 points per contest while allowing 68.7. Opponents are shooting 41.7 percent.
As is the trend in college basketball, NCSU goes without a true center. However, its line-up normally doesn’t contain anyone shorter than 6’4”. This could cause some match-up issues for a shorter East Carolina team.
Sidney Lowe has four players—Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells—who have started every game. The fifth starter has varied due to the absence of senior guard Engin Atsur, who has been out since getting injured early in the Michigan game on November 27th. Atsur is probably the team’s best three-point shooter and is questionable for the contest with the Pirates.
If Atsur can’t play, another senior in Bryan Nieman (G/F, 6’6”, 215) will most likely replace him. Nieman has made five starts and is scoring 3.6 points.
Forward Brandon Costner, a 6’8”, 230-pound redshirt freshman, leads NC State in scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounds (7.1 rpg). Costner is shooting over 35 percent from long range and is second on the team in blocks with 11.
Sophomore forward Ben McCauley (6’9”, 235) is posting 15.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest, which ranks him second on the team in both categories. He has also recorded a team-high 17 steals.
The Wolfpack’s top assist man is 6’7” Gavin Grant, who is averaging nearly six per game. However, he is also turning it over nearly 5.5 times per game. Grant is scoring 14.7 points and pulling down 5.8 boards. He is the team’s top free throw shooter at 78.7 percent (37-47).
NCSU is led in blocks by 6’5” guard Courtney Fells, who has 13. He averages 12 points and is second on the team in steals with 13.
The Pack also get significant minutes from redshirt freshman and Pitt transfer Trevor Ferguson, as well as true freshman Dennis Horner (G/F, 6’7”). They are averaging 4.5 and 5.4 points per game, respectively.
East Carolina will be without 6’9” freshman John Fields, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Pirates’ 76-70 loss at Morgan State on December 18 th, and is out indefinitely. Without his presence inside, a thin frontcourt became thinner and causes Ricky Stokes’ club to be heavily reliant on the three.
East Carolina has never beaten NC State in basketball and that won’t change this year. The Wolfpack’s height on the perimeter will create problems for the Pirates. You may see Stokes and staff use a zone defense as a result, particularly since NCSU is just average from long range. Either way, the Wolfpack win this one.
NC State 80 - East Carolina 63