ECU had one of its biggest setbacks Saturday in Huntington—falling 77-56 against the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Pirates never led in the game and trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half.
Head coach Jeff Lebo knows that his team will need to break its habit of starting poorly and come out of the gate strong Wednesday night against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.
“It’s a really important game for both teams. Hopefully we can play a little bit better to start the game…I don’t want these starts to get in our heads,” said Lebo.
Shamarr Bowden has elevated his game in recent weeks and into the starting lineup. Bowden, one of the team’s senior leaders, believes that the cause of the team’s early-game stagnation is mostly psychological.
“(We need to) come out with more intensity and attack-first,” said Bowden. “It’s something that’s easy to fix. Nobody determines how you come out but you.”
Senior point guard Miguel Paul attributed it to the team’s tempo. “It’s our mindset coming out…We spend too much time not playing (good) basketball. So now we’re just working on playing our second half tempo in the first half.”
UAB (8-10, 0-3 C-USA) will play host to ECU (11-6, 2-2 C-USA) searching for its first conference win of the season. In games played in Birmingham this season, the Blazers are 7-1, while the Pirates are 1-5 away from Minges Coliseum.
To make matters worse, UAB has dominated its all-time series against ECU 12-3; including last year’s 61-57 loss in Greenville. The Pirates are 2-6 when playing on the Blazer’s home floor.
“(UAB) is terrific at home. They’re well-coached and have a lot of new faces,” said Lebo.
One of those new faces is Rod Rucker, who was ranked as the No. 10 recruit among junior college prospects at Northwest Florida State Community College. Rucker leads the Blazers in scoring (13.7), shooting percentage (50.2 percent), and rebounds (8.3). Among the team’s leading scorers, Terrence Jones (10.5) and Fahro Alihodzic (9.8) are newcomers as well.
Before Saturday’s disaster in Huntington, ECU had reeled off back-to-back wins for the first time since November. On Wednesday night, the Pirates are trying to avoid dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“We have to play better. We haven’t been consistent as you need to be this time of year,” said Lebo. “We haven’t played a forty minute game as well as we’re capable of playing….It’s time to do that now.”