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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 11, 2010

By Brian Bailey

Home at last, but no time to relax

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

No Rest for the Weary

After a road odyssey that
began Dec. 7th, ECU faces
three stiff Conference USA
challenges at home. Game
dates, opponents and
opponents' records (through
Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011):

 • Jan. 12: UAB (11-3)
 • Jan. 15: Tulane (12-3)
 • Jan. 19: No. 22 UCF (14-1)
ECU coach Jeff Lebo
(ECU SID image)


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Finally, it’s home sweet home for the East Carolina basketball team. After a month-long road trip, the Pirates return home for a pair of crucial Conference USA games this week.

ECU hosts UAB on Wednesday night, and then welcomes Tulane to town on Saturday afternoon.

The Pirates haven’t been home since falling to Old Dominion on Dec. 7th.

That five-game road trip featured just one victory, last week’s 58-50 win over North Carolina Central. The Pirates dropped three of the other four games by three points or less.

East Carolina fell to Coastal Carolina by a single point, lost at George Washington by two and then came up short by three in its league opener at Memphis.

"The kids have played their hearts out in some hostile environments,” said first-year coach Jeff Lebo to reporters after the loss to Memphis. “We've been on the road for a month and as coach you expect a game in which the kids come out and lay an egg on the road and we haven't done that. I'm really proud of how we handled this stretch. You get hardened and tougher on the road and find out about yourself.

"From a confidence standpoint, we are getting a little better and start understanding a little bit more. We have to continue to build upon that."

That building continues this week with the UAB game. Cameron Moore led the Blazers to a triple-overtime win over Texas-El Paso on Saturday, the same day the Pirates took Memphis to the limit before losing at the end.

Moore and the Blazers head to Greenville with an 11-3 record. One of those three losses came a week ago at top-ranked Duke.

Tulane takes a 12-3 record into its home matchup with UTEP on Wednesday before hitting the road for its weekend date in Greenville. The Green Wave opened conference play by defeating Southern Methodist on Saturday.

So, ECU opens its C-USA campaign at perennial power Memphis, and then pivots quickly to face two of the better programs in the league in its first home conference games.

And the task doesn't get any easier next week when 22nd-ranked Central Florida (14-1) pays a visit to Williams Arena.

It’s a tough assignment for sure.

Lebo said he knew what he was up against in building this Pirate program. His patience will be tested this week. His charges have battled, and could have won games at Coastal, at George Washington and at Memphis.

"I'm very proud of our group, we just fell a little short,” said Lebo after the loss at Memphis. “We did really well in the second half. We wanted to be in every four-minute segment and we did. We outscored them 37-28 in the second half, but we had a tough stretch in the first half and you're going to have those on the road.

"We had some good looks and got the ball where we want and that's all you can ask for as a coach.”

Lebo has the Pirates playing hard. He also understands that all of the hard work needs to be rewarded with a victory.

"We can do some things,” Lebo said. “We can execute plays offensively and defensively, but then when it gets to the very end and the most important percentage of the plays and we get it right where we want it, we just can't finish the play. That's something we have to work on and get better at."

The big difference in this East Carolina team and others in the recent past is on defense. Lebo has his team playing well without the ball.

“We really made an effort defensively and we've played good defense against some good teams,” added Lebo. “The kids have bought in and I think we've made improvements there. We're right there. If we can just stay together, continue to work and get better, good things are going to happen for this basketball team."

The Pirates really need good crowds at Williams Arena this week. That sixth man could go a long way in getting that ECU victory.


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01/11/2011 04:36 AM


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