ECU. vs. UNC held at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)
“It’s something that’s never been done here, winning a postseason game, so that would be huge for the program.”
By Nathan Summers
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The East Carolina basketball team has a clear, defined goal tonight.
The Pirates (18-12) have never won a Division I postseason game, and they’ll get their fifth chance when they host Savannah State in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament at 7 inside Minges Coliseum.
After making a quick exit in last week’s Conference USA tournament in a loss to host Tulsa, it was unclear whether such an invitation would come. Now that it has, the team’s new goal is a familiar one — win and advance.
“It’s something that’s never been done here, winning a postseason game, so that would be huge for the program and for me personally it would be big,” said ECU senior forward and leading scorer Maurice Kemp, who averages a C-USA-best 18.6 points per game. “When you start the season, you hope to be playing during this time and there aren’t many teams that are playing this time of year.”
Two years ago at this time, the Pirates and head coach Jeff Lebo were in a similar position, hosting Jacksonville in the first round of the CIT.
They lost in overtime, but Lebo thinks his team is ready to break its postseason jinx tonight.
“We’ve done some neat things this year and hopefully we’ll continue to play,” Lebo said following Monday afternoon’s practice. “They’ve earned the right to play in March, and we’re excited to be practicing now and preparing and it’s nice to have a home game here in Minges. We’ve never won a postseason game in Division I, and in 50 years of Division I basketball, this will be our fifth postseason appearance.”
Savannah State (19-14) will present numerous roadblocks to the Pirates’ progress tonight, namely with its nation-best 3-point defense. The Tigers have limited opponents to a meager 28.0 percent effectiveness in that regard.
The Pirates, conversely, were the best 3-point shooting team in C-USA, connecting on 8.13 per game, led by sharpshooter Akeem Richmond’s 95 made 3s this season.
“Something’s gonna break on that,” Lebo said of the key matchup. “They defend awfully well, and I think they’re No. 9 in the country in steals and they turn you over. They’re used to winning and they’ve got all juniors and seniors that they play with.”
Rashad Hassan leads the way for the Tigers, scoring 12.8 points per game, followed by 11.9 from Preston Blackman. Arnold Louis is pulling in a team-best 7.8 rebounds per game.
Savannah lost to Morgan State in overtime at the MEAC tournament last week.
Behind Kemp, Pirate point guard Miguel Paul is second on the team in scoring (13.2) and first in assists (6.9), while Richmond averages 11.3 points per contest and has shot 44 percent from beyond the arc. Robert Sampson is pulling in a team-best 8.9 reounds per game, followed by 7.8 from Kemp.
The senior knows he’ll have a lot to do with whether or not tonight is his last game, and he said ECU is feeling rejuvenated follwing their upset at the hands of Tulsa.
“It was a terrible feeling, and we really expected to play better than that,” he said. “We had high expectations for the tournament, and to come up short like that was tough. But we had a real good season and I felt that we deserved a bid into some type of postseason play and I’m glad we got it.”
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.