East Carolina Hoops Update and Winthrop Preview
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 Winthrop.
East Carolina (4-5) has dropped four straight, and the competition gets much tougher over the next couple weeks. Winthrop, who is probably the best team the Pirates will face during this stretch, comes to Williams Arena-Minges Coliseum on Thursday night. Following a break for Christmas, ECU will travel to in-state rivals NC State (12/28) and Wake Forest (1/1).
Stokes’ squad is coming off a 76-70 loss at Morgan State on Monday night. It shot the ball much better from the floor, finishing the night at 50 percent. Darrell Jenkins led East Carolina with 18 points while Courtney Captain scored 14 and connected on 4-of-6 attempts from long range.
However, the Pirates were outhustled for the loose balls and this effort was also reflected in the Bears’ 38-24 rebound margin. No Pirate player had over three rebounds on the night. Despite improving, they also continued to struggle from the free throw line. ECU finished the night 14-of-23.
To make matters worse, junior guard/forward Jeremy Ingram and fabulous freshman center John Fields are questionable for the Winthrop game. Ingram, who didn’t even make the trip to Baltimore, is sidelined with a tonsil problem. Fields, who had 12 points in the loss, left the Morgan State game with a shoulder injury.
If they don’t play, East Carolina will become even thinner inside. The Pirates’ offense, which is already perimeter-oriented, will be even more reliant on knocking down threes.
ECU has been getting hammered on the glass the past four games. 6’8” freshman Gabe Blair will shoulder even more of the rebounding load if Fields is unable to go.
Winthrop Eagles soar into Williams Arena-Minges Coliseum Thursday night
Gregg Marshall is the winningest coach in Winthrop history, boasting a 165-78 mark. He has taken the Eagles to six NCAA Tournaments in eight seasons and has compiled five 20-win seasons along the way. In 2004-2005, Winthrop set program and Big South records for wins with 27. Marshall has been named the coach of the year in the league three times. Impressed yet?
These Eagles appear to be as high-flying as those teams. Winthrop is off to a strong start at 8-3, and their only losses are away from home to ranked teams. It took second-ranked North Carolina Chapel-Hill to the wire in Charlotte before dropping a hard fought 73-66 decision. The Eagles also lost at #12 Wisconsin (82-79, OT) and #22 Maryland (71-60). They notched an impressive 74-63 victory at SEC foe Mississippi State.
The Pirates and Eagles share a common opponent in Limestone. Winthrop defeated the Saints, 80-46, while ECU handled them easily as well, winning 80-54.
This will be the eighth meeting between the two programs. East Carolina holds a 4-3 lead in the series, but Winthrop has won two straight. Last December, the Pirates traveled to Rock Hill and were walloped by the Eagles, 70-48.
Winthrop returns four starters from last year’s 23-8 team that nearly upset Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles are scoring 74.3 points per game while only allowing 57.9 a contest. They aren’t a bad shooting team, as they are knocking down 45 percent of their shots. This includes a 36.3% mark from behind the arc.
Marshall’s club is very athletic and really likes to get up in your face defensively. Winthrop’s opponents are turning it over more than 18 times per game and the Eagles average ten steals per contest.
No Winthrop player is averaging more than 29 minutes per game. The Eagles go at least ten deep, which allows them to really turn up the heat on defense.
Their leader is 6’5” senior guard Torrell Martin. He is posting 16.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Martin is the team’s second best three-point threat, shooting 39.4 percent (28-71) on the year.
The Eagles’ top three-point shooter is junior Michael Jenkins, who is making good on nearly 48 percent of his trifectas. Jenkins, who is from Kinston (NC) (which is only 30 minutes from ECU), averages 15 points per contest.
Down low, Winthrop features 6’10”, 242-pound senior forward/center Craig Bradshaw. The New Zealand-native is putting up 10.4 points and 5.2 boards per game.
Fellow senior, 6’8” forward Phillip Williams, complements him. Williams is one of the best shooters on the team, as he is knocking down 91.4 percent from the free throw line. He is also connecting on 35 percent of his attempts from three, which places him as one of the team leaders.
The three-guard starting line-up also normally features 5’10” junior guard Chris Gaynor, who is scoring 8.8 per game.
Taj McCullough (6’7”, Forward), Mantoris Robinson (6’5”, Guard/Forward) and DeAndre Adams (5’8”, Guard) are some of the primary contributors off Winthrop’s bench.
FOR ECU TO WIN, IT MUST:
Winthrop has beaten East Carolina soundly in each of the past two seasons, winning both games by double figures. Expect more of the same this time around. The Eagles will place at least three players—Martin, Jenkins and Bradshaw—in double figures while controlling the boards.
Even if ECU hangs for a while, Winthrop’s depth will allow them to win this one going away.
Winthrop 77 - East Carolina 58