Pirates look to continue winning ways at Winthrop
East Carolina will play its first road game in Rock Hill, SC on Saturday night
After having the luxury of getting its youthful club some much-needed experience by playing its first five games in the friendly confines of Williams Arena-Minges Coliseum, East Carolina will hit the road for the first time on Saturday night when it travels to Rock Hill, SC to take on the Winthrop University Eagles.
The Pirates concluded their lengthy homestand with a thrilling 93-90 overtime victory over VCU, who is the preseason favorite to win the CAA, on Tuesday night. Second-year coach Mack McCarthy wasn’t sure his club was ready to compete with a team like the Rams, but its performance impressed its veteran coach.
It certainly should have.
ECU fell behind by as many as 12 in the first half, but it responded to pull within four at the break. The Pirates led by as many as nine on two occasions in the second 20 minutes, but they were forced to win it by knocking down some free throws in the waning seconds of the extra period due to the spectacular 35-point effort of VCU’s Eric Maynor.
However, it was the type of win that can give any team—but particularly a very young one—the confidence it needs as it heads on the road for the first time.
Winthrop is 1-4 under second-year coach Randy Peele. The Eagles won their season opener against Division II North Greenville, 67-42, but they have since dropped four consecutive road contests. All of those defeats— South Carolina (86-63), Akron (72-58), Davidson (97-70) and NC State (74-48)—came by 14 or more points.
The combination of that challenging schedule and a roster that is missing key contributors such as Michael Jenkins, Chris Gaynor and Taj McCullough from last year’s NCAA team has been largely responsible for the slow start for the highly successful program from the Big South Conference.
This will mark the fifth straight season that East Carolina and Winthrop have met on the hardwood. The Eagles have soared past the Pirates in the last four, as they’ve won each of those meetings by 15 points or more. They took a 72-57 victory in Greenville a year ago. The aforementioned trio of Jenkins, Gaynor and McCullough combined to score 51 points in that contest.
Winthrop has struggled to put the ball in the basket so far. The Eagles are only averaging 61.2 points per game and are shooting 38.3 percent from the floor. Defensively, they’ve given up over 82 points in their four losses. With the new faces, it appears that Coach Peele has been experimenting with various line-ups to find the most productive rotations. Ten players play more than 11 minutes per game, while none play over 29.
Forward Cameron Stanley, who has led the team in scoring in three straight games, averages a team-high 12 points. He is shooting over 50 percent from the floor (22-of-42) and has knocked down a team-high eight trifectas.
Point guard Justin Burton is putting up 8.2 points and dishing out three assists in 26 minutes per contest.
The Eagles will face a Pirate team that is much more potent than it was a year ago.
East Carolina currently ranks 20th nationally in scoring, as they’re averaging 83 points per game. They are tied for 36 th with 39 three-pointers made and are tied for 16th in free throws made with 90.
Senior guards Sam Hinnant and James Legan lead the way. Hinnant has really assumed a leadership role on this team and has found a way to be a scorer rather than just a great jump-shooter. He is averaging 19.2 points per game and is also second on the team with nearly four assists each time out. Legan is deadly from the outside and is putting up 16.2 points per contest.
Sophomore point guard Brock Young leads the nation in assists with 8.6 per game. He also gives the Pirates another backcourt member averaging in double figures, as he is scoring 10.6 per game.
Darrius Morrow, DaQuan Joyner and Chad Wynn entered the season with very little game experience, but they’ve impressed with their early season efforts. Morrow is scoring 10 points and pulling down 8.2 boards in nearly 26 minutes per contest. The true freshman posted his second double-double in the win over VCU.
Final ECU @ Winthrop Analysis & Prediction
The Eagles will be excited to return to Winthrop Coliseum after getting walloped in four straight road games. The Pirates will get a determined effort from Randy Peele’s club, but in the end will have too much offensive firepower for a Winthrop team that is still attempting to find itself early in the season.
NC State had its way with the Eagles on the interior, as they outscored them 40-9 in the paint and outrebounded them, 45-37. Expect the Pirates to exploit this with their young, but talented frontcourt that has faired well to date. However, the veteran backcourt of Hinnant and Legan must exemplify their leadership in the first game away from Minges.
East Carolina 74 - Winthrop 65