Insights and Observations
Monday, January 9, 2006
By Henry Hinton
Calipari & Company loom for
LIVE THIS A.M.
in on the radio or catch the live Internet feed of
today's Talk of the Town with
Ricky Stokes is enduring
some interesting nights in his first year as head coach of the Pirate
basketball program. In the last week he has gone from exhilaration as he
watched his team nearly beat a Top 25 team to desperation as he watched them
nearly lose to a Division II crowd.
Welcome to East Carolina
The performance of the
Pirates in Winston-Salem on Wednesday night was nothing short of amazing. In
spite of continued shooting woes, ECU
hung on with No. 23 Wake Forest with an
inspired outing that showcased Jeremy Ingram’s on-court leadership and some
The four-point loss
against the Atlantic Coast Conference team on the road — preceded by a
dominating win over UNC-Wilmington — was
encouraging. Pirate fans began to feel the season may not be lost after all.
Then came the Tigers of
Division II St. Paul’s. Watching the game from the stands on Saturday night,
I was reminded of the famous line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
when Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s characters could not shake the band of
persistent men chasing them: “Who are those guys”?
And what are they doing
at a D-II school? And how can a D-II school get players like that?
I’m sure there is an
explanation. Most likely something to do with academics. But Stokes was the
first to admit the Tigers were difficult to stop — or even slow down. Truth
be told, ECU was
fortunate to escape with the 80-74 victory.
“I want to give St.
Paul’s a lot of credit because they played extremely hard,” Stokes said
after the game. “We regrouped in the second half and were able to attack
more inside and make perimeter shots. The defense, however, was the
difference for us tonight.”
Note to Terry Holland...
Don’t schedule St. Paul’s in the future.
Now comes the biggest
game of the year to date as John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers visit Minges on
Wednesday night to open the Conference USA schedule.
Memphis held off a strong
challenge from that tough Winthrop team on Saturday night to get a 73-63
win. That makes
the Tigers' record 13-2 coming into
Greenville. Their only losses have been to Duke in the Preseason NIT
championship game and Texas last week.
lost to Winthrop back on December 18th
Memphis is led by senior
forward Rodney Carney (17.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game) and freshman
forward Shawne Williams (14.4/5.9). The team's catalyst is sophomore point
guard Darius Washington (13 ppg/51 total assists).
Washington has been a
little banged up but scored 17 points in the Winthrop game so expect him to
be full speed on Wednesday.
Calipari is in his sixth
season with the Memphis program and is now arguably the last of the big name
coaches left in C-USA. His presence in this upcoming game and the Tigers'
national ranking (No. 4 last week) has sparked enough interest for it to be
nationally televised on CSTV, which by the way was bought by CBS this past
East Carolina is now 6-7
and must find the same intensity it played with at Wake Forest if it hopes
to stay on the court with Memphis.
Stokes’ game plan against
the Deacons was to slow the game down and not let Wake push the ball. When
the entry pass was made down low the Pirates often found their only option
was to foul the bigger front line of the opponent.
Memphis will start a
front line that averages nearly 6’9”, which presents a similar challenge for
the Pirates. Calipari’s team has seen a lot of zone defense in recent weeks.
The teams who have had any success against them have packed it down low and
made the Tigers shoot from the outside, which they have demonstrated they
That may be Stokes’ only
option against the larger, more talented Memphis team. Keeping people like
Corey Rouse out of foul trouble will be a key.
Another key will be the
home atmosphere. Students are back on campus, so the Minges Maniacs will be
in full voice.
Hopefully, the game will
sell out and ECU will have the same advantage it has enjoyed in recent years
when the likes of Louisville and Cincinnati have come to town.
Pirate fans are always
chirping about wanting a big-time college basketball atmosphere. Wednesday
night presents one of the best opportunities in a while to show they really
Game time is 7 pm.
Send an e-mail message to
Click here to dig into Henry Hinton's
04/21/2008 07:05:43 PM