The East Carolina men’s basketball team (14-10, 5-6 Conference USA) is trying put its late game performance in Saturday’s overtime loss to Southern Miss in their rear-view mirror.
They will begin a season-long three game road trip against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (14-11, 6-5 Conference USA) at 8 pm Wednesday night. The Pirates currently own a 3-6 record in games played away from Minges Coliseum.
The Golden Hurricane are coming off a 101-92 win in triple-overtime against Houston Saturday—with their three leading scorers coming off the bench, led by freshman D’Andre Wright’s 21 points.
Tulsa coach Danny Manning's team has won back to back games after dropping four of its previous five outings. Manning, who was a teammate of ECU coach Jeff Lebo on the 1987 U.S. Pan American team, is in his first season as a collegiate head coach.
James Woodard, a 6-foot-4 freshman forward, leads the Golden Hurricane in scoring and rebounding—averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
“They have a lot of freshmen that are playing pretty well for them. They’re very aggressive and have a lot of guys," said Lebo.
With UCF being ineligible to qualify for the Conference USA tournament at the end of t season, the top five ranked teams will, in essence, receive a first round bye. ECU is tied for sixth in the league standings with Tulane (17-9, 5-6 Conference USA), who will visit Minges Coliseum on March 6. Tulsa currently holds a one-game lead on both the Pirates and Green Wave for that coveted No. 5 ranking.
ECU learned last week that senior guard Corvonn Gaines would miss the remainder of the season with a left shoulder injury. Gaines was the team’s defensive stopper in the back court and the go-to player off the bench to spell point guard Miguel Paul.
Prince Williams, a 6-foot-4 walk-on freshman, is next in the Lebo’s rotation to fill that void. Paul played a game high 43 minutes in Saturday’s overtime loss, while Williams only played a minute. Lebo believes this proved costly.
“We played (Miguel) too many minutes,” said Lebo. “(Southern Miss) wore him down in the final four or five minutes of the game.”
Before coming to ECU in the fall of 2011, Williams played at Fork Union Military Academy, VA. He attributed a lot of his success as a freshman to his experience at Fork Union and believes he can fill the large shoes left by Gaines.
“I really think I can because I can do a lot of other things besides playing (defense),” said Williams. “I’m just waiting for my moment.”
ECU made fifteen 3’s (15-37) on Saturday, but was outscored 54-18 in the paint and had many keys players get into foul trouble.
“The zone bothered us more than anything (against Southern Miss), getting the ball inside. I think against the man-to-man teams we can get it in there a whole lot easier,” said Lebo.
Ty Armstrong is the team’s only true back to the basket type of player and he got into foul trouble early and never found a rhythm. He finished with 1 point in 23 minutes.
Following Wednesday night’s contest, the Pirates will not return home since their next game is against nearby Southern Methodist in Dallas Saturday afternoon.
“It’s the toughest stretch to date…This trip is very difficult from a travel standpoint,” said Lebo.
ECU will close its three-game road stretch against Southern Miss on March 2 in Hattiesburg.