ECU basketball preview: Pirates hope to extinguish losing streak with upset of Blazers
East Carolina has lost five straight and 12 of its last 13
CUSA Fans.com ECU Correspondent Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum previews the basketball game between East Carolina and UAB.
East Carolina second-year head coach Ricky Stokes and his staff knew that this season would include many growing pains for the program considering their roster would be comprised of primarily first-year players. Even so, they probably weren’t expecting their struggles to be quite as severe as what they have been to this point.
The Pirates (5-13, 0-5) have an opportunity to notch a quality win (although they’d likely consider any victory as such at this point) on Saturday night when Mike Davis brings his UAB Blazers (10-9, 2-3) into Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.
UAB holds a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series. The Blazers defeated the Pirates, 72-64, in Birmingham a season ago. ECU took them to the wire despite committing 26 turnovers. It did hold a commanding, 41-26, advantage on the glass. Pirate guards Sam Hinnant and Jeremy Ingram combined for 27 points in that game, but both have been sidelined as of late and are unlikely to be a factor this time around. The Blazes’ Wen Mukubu and Paul Delaney, III scored 12 points apiece while Lawrence Kinnard also reached double figures with 10.
This year’s game is important for each program, but it means much for the Blazers—at least with regards to its short-term implications.
ECU is playing for the future and will obviously not be in post-season play this year borrowing a miraculous run to close their frustrating campaign.
On the other hand, first-year coach Mike Davis and UAB have had a roller coaster season and will need to finish strong in order to be in post-season play. This is not uncommon following any coaching change, but particularly one that includes the implementation of a much different style of play. Former coach Mike Anderson, who was a disciple of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, incorporated a more up-tempo brand of basketball than what the Blazers currently feature under their new boss.
They have registered overtime wins over Minnesota, DePaul and UCF while also collecting victories over Big East opponents South Florida (78-62) in Birmingham and at Cincinnati (59-57). UAB also came very close to upsetting college basketball’s current No.1 and last year’s national champion Florida. The Blazers led the then No. 3 Gators nearly the entire game and were up by as many as 11 points in the second half before falling 75-70 at the Orange Bowl Classic in Miami. Low points include recent blowout losses in league play that saw Davis’ squad lose 76-63 at UTEP and 79-54 at Memphis.
In its last game, UAB saw its 20-game win streak at Bartow Arena come to an end when it dropped a 57-55 overtime decision to Southern Miss after the Golden Eagles’ Jeremy Wise hit a lay-up as he drove through heavy traffic with one second remaining.
The Blazers are posting 67.4 points per game and they don’t shoot the ball very well as they come into the game at only 42.2 percent from the floor and 61.9 percent from the line. They do shoot the ball fairly well from long range (36%), which is good since they attempt an average of more than 20 three-pointers per contest. Mike Davis’ club is turning it over 14.5 times per game while the opposition holds a very small edge on the glass.
Defensively, the Blazers are solid, as they’re holding the opposition to 66.2 points per game and only 41.9 percent from the floor. They force just over 15 turnovers per contest.
The trio of Paul Delaney, III, Wen Mukubu and Lawrence Kinnard spearheads the Blazers’ attack. The threesome has combined to take 60 percent of their team’s shots and is scoring approximately 65 percent of the Blazers’ opponents. They’ve also collected 85 steals. Other than them, there is no one else playing more than 23 minutes per game.
UAB has the benefit of playing with a veteran backcourt in Paul Delaney, Wen Mukubu and Maurice Gibbs.
Paul Delaney, III (6’2”, 200) is posting a team-high 17.4 points while playing 38 minutes per contest. He does more than just score, as he is also pulling down 5 rebounds, dishing out 5.4 assists and recording nearly 2 steals a game. Delaney gets to the free throw line more than any other Blazer and is knocking down 71 percent of his attempts. His weakness is his three-point shooting, as he is only connecting on 27 percent from long range.
6’6”, 205-pound senior Wen Mukubu is the team’s second leading three-point shooter (45.1%). He has knocked down a team-high 41 triples this season and is scoring 14.1 points per game. The Blazers’ swingman also rebounds well and averages 5.2 boards.
Gibbs, who is also a senior, has started 15 games. He contributes 6 points and 3 rebounds. Taurus Dortch has also made five starts at guard.
Sophomore Lawrence Kinnard (6’8”, 210) leads the frontcourt. He is a very versatile player, which can be seen by the fact that he is tops on the team in rebounds and three-point percentage (45.9%).Frank Holmes (6’9”, 210) and Jeremy Mayfield (6’10”, 240) are the other key contributors down low. Holmes (5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) leads the team with 22 blocks. Mayfield is averaging 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in his freshman campaign.
FOR EAST CAROLINA TO WIN, IT MUST:
The Pirates will keep this one close, but in the end their lack of depth and inability to knock down free throws will hurt them again.
UAB 66 - East Carolina 58
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