CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA
View from the East
Friday, January 25, 2013
By Al Myatt
Pirates prep for battle-tested UTEP
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Like Marshall before
its thrashing of East Carolina
last Saturday night, Texas-El Paso has had an entire week to focus
on its upcoming game with the Pirates after taking a 63-54 win at
home over Southern Methodist. UTEP (10-7, 3-1 Conference USA)
arrived in Greenville on Thursday. The Miners were scheduled to
practice in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum today.
"They're a good team," ECU
coach Jeff Lebo said. "They've had a really difficult schedule. They've
got two guys who are starters who they just got eligible at the break.
One of them is their leading scorer who is a graduate student transfer,
Konner Tucker. Another starter, McKenzie Moore, those two guys missed
their first seven games. They've made them a different team."
Tucker, who began his
college career at Wake Forest, is averaging 12.6 points. Moore is
averaging 7.3 points in 21.3 minutes.
"They've beat Oregon
(91-84, Dec. 19 in El Paso)," Lebo noted. "Oregon is undefeated in the
Pac-12. They should have beaten Vegas (60-62, Dec. 17). Vegas is having
a great year. They've played really tough people. I've got a lot of
respect for Coach (Tim) Floyd. I think he's one of the best coaches in
Floyd, who has coached
Iowa, Southern Cal and the Chicago Bulls, and assistant Phil Johnson
were each ejected in their last trip to Greenville in
an 83-76 ECU win on Feb. 23, 2011.
topped the Pirates 70-56 last season
in El Paso.
"We're going to see a lot
of different types of defenses from UTEP," Lebo said. "You never know
with Coach Floyd what you can expect. He throws it all at you — junk
defenses, triangle and twos, box and ones. He guards ball screens
differently. They pressure you. To prepare for them is hard because you
don't know what they'll throw at you. You add to that the week off, and,
with him, he could put in five different defenses in that week.
"Offensively, they execute
awfully well. Their two guards — Konner Tucker is a terrific shooter
from three, 51 percent and (Jacques) Streeter, their point guard, who
wasn't a terrific shooter last year, is really shooting the ball well
from three (46.3 percent). There's a senior and a graduate student in
the backcourt. ... They've got some experience in the guard spots and
some toughness there."
On a day when Lebo's alma
mater (North Carolina) plays at N.C. State, the Pirates coach also will
have to deal with the progeny of former Wolfpack player Chris Washburn.
"Both of Chris Washburn's
sons play for them," Lebo said. "Julian Washburn is a sophomore and
Chris Washburn is a freshman there."
Julian Washburn averages
12.2 points and his brother averages 5.2.
"They're a top 75 in the
RPI (ratings power index)," Lebo said. "They're a good team who have
played a ton of good people here early. They're playing great right now.
They stumbled on the road at Tulsa (42-45, Jan. 16) where they didn't
shoot it particularly well. They've got good balance, too. They've got
four guys who are averaging close to double figures."
There wasn't an
overabundance of optimism for East Carolina's chances at
Alabama-Birmingham on Wednesday night, not after the Pirates had fallen
behind 18-2 four nights earlier at Marshall and
absorbed a 77-56 setback.
When Shamarr Bowden
sustained back spasms on game day and was ruled unavailable, the
situation looked even bleaker.
The circumstances didn't
seem to indicate that ECU's 1,000th win in its 80-year hoops history was
But Lebo has developed the
quality of resiliency in the program. It helped the Pirates win three of
four at the close of last season after a five-game losing streak.
Lebo was back in his
office Thursday morning after a charter flight home following
a 91-85 win at UAB. Unlike
previous C-USA wins
over Central Florida and
Houston, this one didn't require
a dramatic rally.
"I thought our mindset was
better," Lebo said. "We showed a little bit more grit and toughness to
start the game the right way, with more energy. We didn't let things
happen. We kind of made things happen. We got off to a good start and
that was obviously a key for us."
stepped up in Bowden's absence to drop four of five from behind the arc.
Roberts-Campbell was just 15 for 53 (28.3 percent) from long distance
coming into the game.
"It was great to see,
finally," Lebo said. "He's been really struggling shooting the ball and
he really shot it well. He took it to the basket once or twice. He's
always accountable and dependable defensively. Without Shamarr, it was
big for Paris to come in and play the way he did."
Lebo said Bowden's status
for Saturday's 7 p.m. game for Texas-El Paso was uncertain as of
"The trainer worked on him
all day (Wednesday) trying to get him ready for the game and he couldn't
straighten up and get comfortable and ready to move so we'll look at him
here the next day or two and see how he feels," said the Pirates coach.
Small forward Erin Sraughn
has already been ticketed for a redshirt season with a leg ailment.
Ty Armstrong was another
force for the Pirates with 18 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs.
"He played great," Lebo
said. "It was the most he's played (32 minutes) and the best he's
played. In conference play, he's doing a better job of rebounding the
ball for us."
Armstrong has grabbed an
average of 8.4 boards in the Pirates' 3-2 start in the league. Only once
before, in Lebo's first season at ECU
in 2010-11, have the Pirates
fared as well through five games in their 12 seasons in C-USA.
A knee injury in his
freshman season at Auburn when Lebo was coaching in the SEC limited
Armstrong at the outset of his college career. He had to sit out a
season after transferring to ECU.
"He really hasn't played
in college," Lebo said. "I think he's getting more and more comfortable
here, learning what it's about and also getting in game shape to be able
to be effective. He played major minutes. 18 and 10 is a big night. ...
He was a man in that game. We certainly needed everything that we could
get out of him."
Maurice Kemp had 17 points
and seven rebounds for the Pirates. Miguel Paul had 12 points and an
incredible 14 assists. That's a great week for most point guards, but
that's what happens when Roberts-Campbell and Akeem Richmond (4-for-6 on
3-pointers) are dialed in. Robert Sampson had 10 points and seven
boards, making it difficult for the Blazers to sag off anyone
UAB was 7-1 at home, the
only loss to Memphis (53-69, Jan. 12).
remains in limbo
ECU is scheduled to join
the Big East in football in 2014. Although an all-sports invitation to
the Big East has been termed a likelihood, Lebo isn't using such reports
on the recruiting trail.
"From a recruiting
standpoint, we just tell them what we know at this time," said the
Pirates coach. "To try to handicap it or figure out what's going to
happen next or where the dominoes are going to fall or what league we're
going to be in, we know right now we're in Conference USA next year.
"We don't really know
what's going to happen and I don't think anybody knows eventually what's
going to happen here. When you think there's going to be some clarity
and it's going to calm down, something else happens and it's another
earthquake. It shakes up the conference universe again.
"When is it going to
happen again? Who knows?"
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