East Carolina fans shouldn't despair
a 73-64 basketball loss at
Tulane on Wednesday night.
The Pirates are returning to the
supportive environment of Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Saturday
night to host Rice at 7 p.m., and one positive attribute of Coach Mack
McCarthy's ECU teams has been how well they respond to adversity.
Before traveling to face the Green Wave
in New Orleans, the Pirates had come home from
a disappointing 76-70 road loss
to Rice in Houston and bounced back with home wins
over Southern Miss and
Last season, the Pirates were
overwhelmed 91-62 at Texas-El Paso in late February but regrouped
quickly and won three straight, including
an 84-81 victory over a strong
McCarthy said his players are learning
the importance of addressing correctable areas of performance in
practice and preparing for upcoming challenges as opposed to dwelling on
negative aspects of the recent past.
ECU is 12-11 overall and 4-6 in
Conference USA while the Owls are 8-15 for the season and 3-6 in the
league. Rice shot 50 percent in the first half of the teams' first
meeting and led 34-15 with seven minutes left in the half. The Pirates
closed within four points three times in the second half but couldn't
catch coach Ben Braun's club.
"We played pretty well other than the
first 10 minutes of the game at Rice and had a chance to win down the
stretch," McCarthy said.
The Owls will bring some momentum to
Greenville following an 88-72 win over Southern Miss in Houston on
Wednesday night. Freshman Connor Frizzelle scored 24 points against the
Golden Eagles and Rice was dialed in from long distance with a school
record 16 three-pointers.
Frizzelle was six for nine behind the
arc. Rodney Foster, who finished with 20 points, and Cory Pflieger, who
scored 18, each had five connections from three-point land.
Rice hit 58 percent from the field. The
Owls dropped eight of nine beyond the arc in the second half. Rice used
a similar method of operation against Southern Miss that proved
effective against the Pirates in terms of a fast start, leading by as
many as 17 points before intermission.
Playing at home creates the realistic
possibility that ECU will shoot better than its last outing when the
Pirates made just 17 of 46 from the floor at Tulane for roughly 37
percent. ECU managed to make just five of 18 of its three-point tries
for 28 percent.
In its last two home wins, the Pirates
hit 46 percent overall from the floor and 27 of 53 behind the arc for a
torrid 51 percent. That included 15 threes against UCF to match the
In comparison, ECU has made 38 percent
from the field and 33 percent on threes in its last two road games.
ECU will need to rebound better than in
its first matchup with the Owls when Rice had a 44-37 advantage on the
boards. Aleks Perka had 11 rebounds in that game and 6-foot-10 Trey
Stanton grabbed 10.
The Pirates had anticipated that
6-foot-7 DaQuan Joyner would be back to bolster the frontcourt depth
situation but his absence for the remainder of the season stresses an
already thin frontcourt rotation. Still, ECU has been getting some
strong efforts from its people in the paint on occasion.
"We've kind of been playing by
committee inside," McCarthy said. "Darius Morrow has had some
outstanding games. He had his career high of 21 (points) against SMU
(Jan. 24). Against Rice, Chad Wynn had his career high of 21.
"Jamar Abrams, if you could call him a
post man, a 6-foot-5 post man, has been having some nice games
Abrams scored a career-high 25 points
in an 89-75 win over UCF as he made 10 of 12 from the floor and five of
six behind the arc.
"We're really experiencing something
pretty special right now," McCarthy said of Abrams. "We're watching him
grow up right before our eyes. He literally has gotten more consistent
as the season has gone on. At the very beginning he was really
struggling. He didn't put up any numbers early in the year despite the
fact that he's a really good player.
"But he's starting to understand how to
play, when to play hard and he's doing a better job defensively. He
makes up for his errors defensively now just by hustling. He is an
exceptional athlete. He had a couple of dunks (in the UCF game) that
were incredible. He also has enough finesse to step outside and go
5-of-6 from three-point range."
While the Pirates have had different
players stepping up, McCarthy is looking for more consistency from his
"We have struggled recently with the
consistency issue," McCarthy said. "Probably having four sophomores and
two freshmen who are playing regularly is contributing to that. That's
something we've got to get cleared up in order to be more successful."
Success has some significant
implications for the Pirates. ECU hasn't had a winning season since
1996-97. A winning record could lead to an NIT berth if ECU doesn't make
a stunning run through the C-USA Tournament.
ECU has already improved on last
season's 11-19 record and a win over Rice would be gravy in that regard.
The Pirates may have been down after
the loss at Tulane but under McCarthy, they've seldom been counted out.