East Carolina lost its last game to Texas-El Paso in heart-breaking fashion, when guard Mckenzie Moore drained a last-second prayer from 35-feet away. Though very difficult, the Pirates are filing Saturday’s loss away and turning the page.
“We can’t dwell on the past. We have to learn from it, said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo. “In the game of basketball, you have to put the wins and losses behind you very quickly. You can’t get too high; you can’t get too low, (knowing) you got the next one around the corner.”
their starters Wednesday, Shamarr Bowden and Robert Sampson.
Bowden, who was ejected from Saturday night’s after throwing two punches at a UTEP player, was suspended for Wednesday’s game by Lebo Monday.
Sampson went down in the second half of the same game, grabbing his left knee and being helped off the floor to receive tests.
When speaking about Sampson’s status for Wednesday night, Lebo said, “It looks doubtful, but we’ll see what it looks like soon. We’re preparing to play without him.”
Sampson averages 9.6 points per game, along with a team-high 9.2 rebounds, and is the Pirates’ premiere post-defender. Bowden is one of the team’s most dangerous threats from beyond the three-point arc. He is second to Akeem Richmond in three-point shooting percentage (35 percent), for players that have attempted 10 or more shots from deep this season.
“Guys are going to be playing different positions in this game. Everyone has to be ready to step up and contribute,” said forward Maurice Kemp. “We’re definitely going to need all the help we can get.”
Memphis enters Minges Coliseum with a 16-3 overall record and an undefeated 5-0 start to its conference slate. The Tigers have won their last 10 games, and 14 out of 15 – including a 67-54 decision against ECU on Jan. 9 at FedEx Forum.
In that game, the Pirates fell behind by as many as 27 points in the first half, but were able to cut the deficit down to 5 in the second half. Junior guard Joe Jackson had a game-high 15 points, on 7-11 shooting, with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Jackson is the Tigers’ leader in both scoring and assists—averaging 13.3 points and 4.3 assists per game.
“Memphis is as good as they always are,” said Lebo. “They got tremendous depth, talent, speed, and quickness. They present a lot of different problems.”
In reference to their last meeting, Lebo added, “I didn’t think we played with the same energy..They get a lot of points in the paint. We can’t have them get 40 (points) like we did in the first game.”
With Sampson likely to be on the shelf, the Pirates will turn to its other contributing post-players; who are each trying to respond from their own type of adversity.
Kemp, who didn’t start for the first time this season against UTEP after arriving late to a team meeting, was unable to find any kind of a rhythm and takes a lot of responsibility for ECU’s loss.
“I feel like I let my teammates and coaches down,” said Kemp. “Coach Lebo said when you mess up, it’s karma. Guys always play bad after incidents like that…I got to show more leadership, being a senior of the team.”
Ty Armstrong and Marshall Guilmette were huge for the Pirates when Sampson went down, but have had their fair share of foul problems this season. Both players fouled out in the game’s final minutes Saturday.
“Fouling is an issue with (Guilmette and Armstrong). They will have to play some more minutes,” said Lebo. “You’ll probably see some different guys in there playing a little bit more.”
Armstrong has really picked his game up over the last couple of weeks and emerged as a reliable scoring threat in the paint. In conference play, he has averaged 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Despite its last-second loss, the Pirates are still an impressive 10-2 at Minges Coliseum this season. ECU Athletics is advising those in attendance to wear gold shirts for its annual “Gold-Rush” game.
“Our crowds have been awesome. Our students have been unbelievable and we have a terrific place to play. “Hopefully, we can keep our crowd in the game for as long as we can and maybe steal this victory.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.