ECU Faces Next Road Challenge At Marshall
Jan. 22, 2011
Fresh off its biggest road win in recent memory, the focus of practice for East Carolina the last two days has been on getting better and being prepared for its next opponent, who also scored a major victory earlier this week, not reveling in its most recent achievement.
The Pirates (10-8, 2-2 Conference USA) will play their fourth game in eight days Saturday as they take on Marshall (13-5, 1-2 C-USA), who is riding high after a 75-71 win over No. 21 West Virginia on Wednesday. East Carolina scored a 74-62 win at UCF, who was ranked 22nd in last week's Associated Press poll, on Wednesday.
"We finally broke through against a quality opponent on the road, something we haven't been able to do consistently," Pirate coach Jeff Lebo said. "We did a lot of positive things that I want them to remember, but we've got to be able to put the elation behind us and go back to work and keep getting better."
ECU had been the victim of three close road losses this season, falling at Coastal Carolina by one, at George Washington by two and at Memphis by three. The Pirates finally earned their long-awaited road victory by knocking off the Knights, who were previously unbeaten at home. ECU led by as many as 17 midway through the second half.
Senior Jontae Sherrod, who has been the Pirates' leading scorer all season, led the way with 21 points, but he had an outstanding supporting cast.
Sophomore Erin Straughn drilled four 3-pointers in the game and finished in double figures for the first time in 16 games. Corvonn Gaines also provided the Pirates with some punch, scoring nine points - the most for him since before Christmas.
"We finally got Erin and Corvonn going offensively on the same night," Lebo said. "They have to give us something offensively and when they do we're a much better offensive team with those guys in there scoring."
The aforementioned trio made seven of the Pirates' 10 3-pointers Wednesday as ECU shot 58.8 percent behind the arc (10-17).
Defensively, East Carolina held UCF to 13 points below its season average and its second-worst shooting night at home this season.
The Pirates are statistically the second-best perimeter defensive team in the league behind Marshall. The Herd ranks 11th nationally in 3-point field goal defense holding its opponents to 28.5 percent. ECU ranks 16th limiting the opposition to 28.8 percent.
Marshall sprung the upset of West Virginia by holding the Mountaineers to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor, a season-low for WVU. Twenty-five points from junior Damier Pitts didn't hurt either.
Pitts has the highest scoring average on the team at 16.4 points per game followed by freshman DeAndre Kane (15.2 ppg) and senior Tirrell Baines (12.6 rpg).
"Marshall presents a lot of challenges," Lebo stated. "They're very athletic on the perimeter; They're a very strong team and a very good offensive rebounding team. They're coming in with a lot of confidence too with a win over West Virginia."
Following its win over UCF, East Carolina will also enter the game with more confidence and doesn't have to look far for motivation after suffering a 51-point loss here a year ago, 100-49. The Pirates have never won in Huntington, 0-7, and have lost five straight in the series, which Marshall leads 10-4.