EAST CAROLINA HOOPS PREVIEW: Pirates travel to Richmond and UNCG
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 games between East Carolina and Richmond as well as UNCG.
Following a season-opening win at home over Morgan State on Saturday, East Carolina will travel to the University of Richmond on Tuesday (Nov. 14) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Saturday (Nov. 18). The Pirates showed some reasons for optimism in their opener, but this contest against the Spiders of the Atlantic 10 will be a much better gauge of where this youthful and new-look team stands early in the season. Below, I take a brief look at these opponents and will identify what East Carolina must do to compete and come away with wins.
Tuesday, November 14 – at Richmond – Robins Center (9,071)
There is a long basketball history between these two schools due to the several years they spent together in the Colonial Athletic Association in the 80’s and 90’s. UR has controlled the series, but this game features two teams with a lot of uncertainty.
The Pirates are breaking in a roster that features nine new players. Despite having played together so little, they appeared to have relatively good chemistry in their win over Morgan State. However, there were your careless passes and such at times that is a product of unfamiliarity. ECU is a perimeter-oriented, athletic club that has some talent in the frontcourt, but not much depth. The Pirates like to get out in transition and let new point guard Darrell Jenkins create. Defensively, the Pirates have the quickness to play man against most teams; however, they may be forced to go zone against some teams due to size problems on the interior.
Richmond is entering its second season under its coach as well. Chris Mooney’s Spiders finished 13-17 overall and 6-10 in the Atlantic 10 in 2005-2006. They were 11-8, but limped home due to their offensive woes. UR was the nation’s best scoring defense, allowing only 57.8 points per game. Unfortunately for them, they were worse offensively. They averaged the second fewest points per game in the nation with only 52.1 per contest.
They didn’t possess the three-point shooting and guard play necessary for their offense to succeed. Thus, they brought in six freshmen that can shoot the three and excel in Mooney’s slow-down Princeton style-offense. The Spiders are long in the backcourt, as they have five guys that are all 6-4 or taller. One of the starters will likely be 6-5 Senior Pete Thomas. True freshman David Gonzalvez (6-4, 190) could likely start at point guard.
Along the frontline, 6-7, 230-pound senior Gaston Moliva is the probable starter at power forward. Freshman David Brewster (6-6) is a strong shooter and could start at small forward. The center figures to be 6-11 junior Drew Crank. He is versatile and can play away from the basket, but the Spiders will need him more down low.
The Spiders’ size on the perimeter could cause some match-up issues, and prevent the Pirates from shooting over them.
FOR EAST CAROLINA TO WIN, IT MUST:
PLAY DISCIPLINED DEFENSE
Saturday, November 18 – at UNCG – Fleming Gym (2,300)
When the Pirates travel to UNCG on Saturday, they will be looking to avenge last year’s 78-70 loss to the Spartans at Williams Arena-Minges Coliseum. The game was tied at 25 at halftime, but UNCG scored 53 second half-points to pull out the win on the road. Kyle Hines, Kevin Oleksiak and Ricky Hickman led the Spartans in that game. The trio combined for 62 of the Spartans’ 78 points. Hickman drained four three’s while Oleksiak nailed five of his six attempts from behind the arc.
In last year’s game, Sam Hinnant led the Pirates with 18 points and eight assists. Courtney Captain finished with 13.
This key trio returns and should lead their team out of the Southern Conference North Division cellar. In fact, the league’s coaches picked the Spartans, who return four of their five starters from last year’s disappointing 12-19 team, to win their division. Ricky Hickman and Kyle Hines were elected to the ten-member preseason All-Southern Conference team.
UNCG is off to a 0-2 start, dropping two competitive road games at Marshall (82-80, OT) and Penn State (56-69).
Against Marshall, the Spartans led 67-58 with only 1:32 left to play, but could not hold off the Thundering Herd. MU went on a 10-0 run over the next 1:13 to take a 68-67 lead, but UNCG did force OT when Ricky Hickman made one of two free throws in the waning seconds. Kyle Hines posted his 22nd career double double in the loss, as he had a career-high 38 points and 12 rebounds. Hickman had 11, but was zero of six from three-point range. Despite their poor performance from behind the arc (3 of 20), they were able to stay in the game by hitting their free throws (33 of 41).
In State College, the game was tied at 49 with ten minutes remaining, but the Nittany Lions pulled away with a 9-0 run over the next five minutes. Kyle Hines finished with his 23rd consecutive game of scoring in double figures, scoring 20 points. The Spartans’ leader also grabbed seven rebounds. Hickman struggled for the second game in a row, shooting 3 of 12 from the floor on the night. UNCG’s downfall was largely its inability to secure rebounds at the defensive end. PSU had 14 offensive rebounds in the game.
On Thursday, November 16th, UNCG travels to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the nation’s tenth-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
FOR EAST CAROLINA TO WIN, IT MUST:
THE GOLDEN ARC
*Guard the perimeter well. The Spartans have shot 43 three-pointers in their first two games, and despite only making 11 of those, possess the ability to knock them down. Ricky Hickman and Kevin Oleksiak shot 34 and 36 percent, respectively, from behind the arc last season. They killed the Pirates in Greenville a year ago.
FOUL TROUBLE UP FRONT
STOP SPARTAN SECOND CHANCES