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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, January 16, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Pirates must regroup for long league gauntlet


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After an emotionally draining loss at home to Memphis on Wednesday night, East Carolina could not get it together for another tough Conference USA game on Saturday, losing on the road to Texas-El Paso 58-45.

The 45 points were the low water mark for the Pirates this season, which should concern Ricky Stokes and his coaching staff.

This edition of the Pirates appears to be reminiscent of some recent ECU teams which had a tendency to play well in the big games and then disappear in other league games, particularly on the road.

Jeremy Ingram was the high man for the Pirates with just 9 points. Perhaps more perplexing was Corey Rouse’s offensive output. Rouse was limited to just six points on the evening; however, he did pull down nine rebounds.

The Pirates must now pull themselves together morale-wise for a long conference stretch run which includes Wednesday night’s home game with Southern Methodist. The Mustangs are fresh off a 20-point loss to that same Memphis Tigers team that ECU played tough last week. The game was played at Memphis.

The loss to Memphis dropped the SMU record to 7-8 overall. They are winless in C-USA through two games.

The Mustangs feature a one-two punch at guard with leading scorer Bryan Hopkins, a senior averaging over 16 points, and sophomore point guard Derrick Roberts, who is scoring over 12 per game.

Coach Jimmy Tubbs’ team has been helped tremendously by true freshman Brian Morris, a 6’8” forward from Oregon who leads the team in rebounding at over 7 boards per game. SMU also features a 6’11” center in Donatas Rackaukas, a junior from Lithuania.

Tubbs is in his second year at SMU after a successful stint as an assistant at Oklahoma.

After facing the Mustangs at home, ECU will hit the road for a Saturday game at Tulane. Then the Pirates return home for two consecutive games in Minges Coliseum's Williams Arena, with Central Florida on the 25th and Tulsa on the 28th.

The SMU and UCF games will be televised locally by WITN-TV.

The Pirates are hitting that mid-January stretch when travel, studies, practice and games all seem to run together. It is a ritual that can become brutal in far-flung C-USA — particularly for ECU, which faces an extraordinarily demanding travel itinerary.

Road games in this league can create three- and four-day junkets, which means student-athletes become more athlete than student.

Stokes and company are hoping the scoring doldrums displayed in El Paso on Saturday night are not a sign of things to come.

Perhaps the friendly confines of their home court will be just what the doctor ordered as the Pirates continue to try and prove the newly down-scaled C-USA is the right home for the program.

Wednesday’s game with Southern Methodist provides another opportunity to prove to the league that the Pirates are the up and comer in the league.

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04/21/2008 07:04:56 PM

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