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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Pirates stare into the Tigers' den


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Pirates stare into the Tigers' den
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By Brian Bailey
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East Carolina wrapped up its non-conference hoops slate with Saturday afternoon’s dismantling of North Carolina Wesleyan. The Pirates now venture into league play in Conference USA.

And up first is Memphis.

“Great,” joked ECU coach Jeff Lebo when asked about the C-USA opener. “ I’ve watched them play a few games already. Their talent level, their quickness and their speed is all hard to simulate. They are terrific.”

East Carolina heads to Memphis tomorrow night after winning nine of 13 games. The most disappointing of the four losses came this past week, when Campbell came to town and took out the Pirates in overtime.

ECU trailed the Camels by 15 with 3:45 to play when Akeem Richmond led a comeback. Much like he did against North Carolina last month, Richmond sizzled in bringing the Pirates back.

The Camels finally played a little defense on Richmond on the game’s last play of regulation, and then controlled the overtime period to give ECU the loss at home at Williams Arena.

What we have learned from Coach Lebo through his first two seasons is that the basketball season is a process. Lebo wants his team playing its absolute best in March, and you can see that this team is on schedule for that. Barring injury, this should be Lebo’s best Pirate team when tournament time rolls around.

First, though, ECU has to find success in its league games. It all starts with the Tigers tomorrow night.

“They have more of a mature group of players now,” said Lebo. “A lot of these guys are juniors now that were highly touted freshman. Their emotions are in check. They look relaxed. They play better with each other. They have lost three games. They have lost to Louisville at home. They lost to Minnesota and they lost to VCU.”

The Tigers had a big win in Knoxville Friday night in their final tune up before tackling the C-USA schedule.

“They won at Tennessee without (Tarik) Black. Black is a beast and I am anticipating he’ll be healthy for us,” Lebo said with a smile on his face.

The Pirates will face a much bigger and stronger team in the Tigers in this league opener. Maurice Kemp has played huge so far for ECU, but he’ll likely get pushed around a little against Memphis. Still, Kemp has a certain knack for doing things that most big man can’t do, and that could offset the advantage.

Ty Armstrong had a nice game against Wesleyan Saturday afternoon.

“Things are coming to me,” said Armstrong. “I still feel that I have a long way to go, especially with the level of competition that’s coming up next. I think I’m getting prepared and I’ll be ready when the time comes.”

That time is coming quickly. Coach Lebo knows it’s a very tough opening night assignment in Conference USA.

“That place is always a tough place to play” said Lebo. “Hopefully we’ll be excited and play well in that environment.”

There are three inner-seasons within the basketball calendar. The non-conference slate was an overall success for Lebo and company. Conference play tips off tomorrow night, leading up to March and tournament play.

Get ready for part two of the basketball campaign.


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01/08/2013 02:36 AM


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