ECU Hoops Preview: Bucs look to start New Year with a bang at Wake Forest
East Carolina lost its final six games of 2006
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 Wake Forest.
Monday, January 1, 2007 – 2:00 p.m. (EST) – Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
All-Time Series Record: Wake Forest leads 4-0
Last Meeting: January 3, 2006 – No. 23 Wake Forest 58 East Carolina 54
It would be tough for the Pirates to begin 2007 any worse than they finished 2006. East Carolina has not won since November 25 th and the Pirates’ plight got even worse recently, when they received news that fabulous freshman center John Fields would miss several games due to a shoulder injury.
In its last game, a narrow 64-57 loss at rival N.C. State, East Carolina put forth its best effort in some time. However, the Pirates’ inability to put the ball in the basket down the stretch and their lack of an inside presence kept them from shocking the Wolfpack.
Despite the disappointing loss, that performance should give Ricky Stokes’ club at least a little confidence boost as they head to Winston-Salem for a New Year’s Day match-up with Skip Prosser’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Last season, East Carolina gave Wake Forest everything it wanted. The Pirates led 54-52 following a Courtney Captain three-pointer with around four minutes to play. However, they could not get good shots in the waning minutes and the Demon Deacons pulled out a 58-54 win in Winston-Salem.
ECU’s three-returning scholarship players led the way in that match-up. Courtney Captain paced the Pirates with 14 points, draining 4-of-9 from behind the arc. Jeremy Ingram was the only other player to reach double figures, as he finished with 10 points against his former team. Sam Hinnant recorded seven points while also pulling down six rebounds.
Wake Forest enters the game with an 8-5 record, but it has struggled as of late. The Demon Deacons have dropped five of their last seven, including a 75-67 decision to South Florida in Tampa on Friday (December 29 th). The downward spiral began with a 94-58 thrashing at Air Force. Losses to Georgia (87-86), DePaul (78-63) and Virginia Tech (63-60) followed. The Deacs ended their four-game skid by blowing out Gardner Webb (92-60).
In their past two outings, WFU played opponents— Richmond and South Florida—that the Pirates have also played. East Carolina lost a 71-67 overtime decision at Richmond in the second game of the season. The Deacs topped the Spiders by 13 in Winston-Salem. Both teams received losses at the hands of South Florida. The Bulls defeated ECU, 65-52, in Greenville.
Wake Forest is a very good shooting team, as they are at 49.7 percent on the season. They also shoot a solid 36 percent from three-point range. As well as they shoot from the floor, the Deacs are only knocking down 62.7 percent of their free throws. They get to the charity stripe often, as they’re shooting over 25 free throws per game.
WFU likes to get up and down the court. It is averaging just less than 80 points per contest.
Defensively, Prosser’s club has not been very good. Opponents are scoring 73.6 points per game and are hitting nearly 47 percent of their shots.
The Deacs are outrebounding the opposition by two boards a game.
The massive Kyle Visser (6’11”, 255) leads WFU in scoring, as he is averaging 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds. He is shooting nearly 70 percent (67.8) from the floor. His size could present huge problems for the much smaller Pirates.
He is the only Demon Deacon averaging double figures, as they’ve received very balanced scoring. There are four guys posting over eight points per game. Guard Ishmael Smith, who is scoring 9.4 per contest, leads this quartet. “Ish” is knocking down a team leading 47.6 (10-21) percent of his long-range attempts.
Kevin Swinton and Jamie Skeen are other top post players. Michael Drum, Harvey Hale, Shamaine Dukes, and L.D.Williams are the Deacs top backcourt threats. Anthony Gurley also sees significant minutes at guard for Wake. Drum is the team’s top free throw shooter. The 6’6”, 205-pounder is connecting on 93.5 percent (29-31) of his attempts.
FOR EAST CAROLINA TO WIN, IT MUST:
Final ECU vs. Wake Forest Prediction:
Wake Forest is struggling, but it will take a powerful Pirate effort to win this one. The Deacs’ Visser will most likely be too much for the thin East Carolina frontcourt to handle. The Pirates might hang for a while, but in the end the lack of inside presence will be their undoing.
Wake Forest 78 - East Carolina 65
Other East Carolina Basketball Notes: