GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates will take their two-game losing streak
to Tudor Fieldhouse for a Conference USA tilt against the Rice Owls.
Jeff Lebo's Pirates lost to Texas-El Paso by one point before suffering a
75-68 setback to Memphis in their two-game home stand. The back-to-back losses
dropped ECU to a 12-8 overall record and a sixth place position in the league
standings. The Pirates are one of the top offensive squads in the C-USA with a
conference leading average of 77.2 points per contest, but they are second to
last in the 12-team league with an allowed average of 70.9 ppg.
Rice finally notched its first win in C-USA action of the season on Wednesday
as it picked up a surprising, 79-69, victory over the Houston Cougars in a
cross-town rivalry game. Ben Braun's unit had lost nine of its previous 10
games before downing the Cougars and it will be looking to string together
wins for the first time of the 2012-13 campaign in this one. The Owls are
being outscored by an average of 8.4 points per game, which is 6.4 more than
the second to last place Marshall Thundering Herd on the conference
East Carolina holds a narrow 7-5 advantage after topping Rice in last season's
Conference USA Tournament. It was the fourth win in a row for the Pirates,
dating back to 2010. Rice is 3-3 at home against ECU despite dropping its last
two home games in the series.
In the loss to the Tigers, Ty Armstrong paced ECU with 18 points and nine
boards. Miguel Paul contributed 15 points, six assists, and two steals while
Maurice Kemp and Akeem Richmond scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Kemp is
stuck in a cold streak from the floor and has gone just 9-of-30 over his past
two outings. Despite the recent slump, the 6-foot-8 senior forward has made
himself an early candidate for C-USA Player of the Year by producing 17.1 ppg
to go along with a 7.8 rpg. Robert Sampson is an even more impressive
rebounder with 9.2 per contest, while Paul is second in the conference with
6.0 assists per game. Thanks to Paul's great court vision, ECU is dishing out
17.3 assists per contest as a team, which is the eighth best rate nationally.
The Owls went into the intermission of their crosstown matchup with Houston
trailing, 33-25. However, In the second half, Rice was unstoppable after the
break as it shot 65.2 percent from the floor while making good on 6-of-10 from
beyond that arc to win the second stanza by 18 points. The Owls closed out the
game on a 17-6 run to pull away. Max Guercy scored 21 points to push Rice to
its big win over Houston earlier this week. The freshman guard has caught fire
in recent weeks to reach double-figures in five-straight contests with an
average of 14.6 ppg during that span. Senior guard Tamir Jackson, who is
leading the Owls in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.1), tallied 18 points and
six boards versus the Cougars.
Jackson has needed help all season long. Although Guercy's emergence still
leaves the Owls away from challenging for the conference crown, they should be
more competitive the rest of the way if the one-two punch continues to operate
efficiently. The Pirates will not come in expecting to be handed the win after
losing two in Greenville before arriving in the Lone Star State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 78, Rice 72
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