East Carolina has never beaten Wichita State in basketball. Five matchups with the Shockers, dating back to Jan. 11, 2018, have produced five losses.
The teams haven’t played since Jan. 1, 2020. Two scheduled games last season were never played. ECU was supposed to open play in the American Athletic Conference this season at home against Wichita State on Dec. 29, but that contest was postponed due to COVID issues with the Pirates.
The teams will meet in the regular-season finale for both programs on Saturday at WSU’s Koch Arena (ESPNU, 3 p.m.).
ECU (15-13, 6-10 AAC) has some factors in its favor.
The Pirates are healthy for the most part. They have the momentum of a 2-game winning streak and they have had ample time to prepare since a 64-59 home win over Tulsa on Saturday.
“It’s a weird time to have a bye week, but it’s probably a pretty good time,” said ECU coach Joe Dooley. “We’ve been able to give them a couple days off to go try to get a little bit healthier, get our minds and bodies right. We’ve also worked on some things we needed to get better at and we’ve had some time to prepare for Wichita State.”
A 10-0 run helped the Pirates top Tulsa for the second time this season on Saturday.
“We got some stops,” Dooley said. “Our defense in the second half was much better. They shot 68 percent in the first half, and we got it down to 28 percent in the second half. A lot of deflections. The guys did a better job with guarding the ball. Obviously, when we rebound the ball nobody gets a transition. Tristen (Newton) made some timely shots. It was just a combination of defense turning into offense that really helped us.”
Newton had 27 points against the Golden Hurricane, accounting for 42.1 percent of the scoring production.
“Tristen has played really well,” Dooley said. “He’s had a really good year.”
Beating the Bulls
ECU bounced back from a 69-66 loss at the buzzer to Central Florida for a 64-60 win at South Florida on Feb. 22.
“Central Florida was a tough point,” Dooley said. “Guys bounced back. I thought we were a little flat to start the South Florida game. In the last four or five minutes, I thought we really picked up our intensity. I thought against Tulsa we had pretty good energy for the most part — especially the second half.”
Bye week shifts
Rarely does a team have a week of preparation time at this point in a season.
“We would have had our bye week the week of the South Florida game, but that South Florida game (at USF, Feb. 17) was a make up,” Dooley said. “We had to go to South Florida. That would have been our bye week and a chance to work on some stuff to essentially prepare for Central Florida (Feb. 20) for a week but that didn’t happen.”
Wednesday night scout
The Pirates watched Wichita State’s 72-62 win at Tulsa on Wednesday night.
“it was different because Wichita State will face a different defense against us than what Tulsa plays,” Dooley said.
The ECU coach noted that it was a relatively short bus ride home for the Shockers after they improved to 14-12 overall and 5-9 in the AAC.
Tyson Etienne of Wichita State was the AAC preseason Player of the Year. A 6 feet, 2 inch sophomore, Etienne is averaging 15 points after scoring 18 on Wednesday night.
“He’s played better of late,” Dooley said. “He’s had some spurts of greatness, but he’s struggled a little bit. It’s different when you’re marked like he is this year. It’s a different feel, different expectations, different pressures — but he’s a more than capable player that can jump up at any time and hurt you.”
This will be the first time ECU has faced the Shockers without Gregg Marshall serving as coach of Wichita State.
The Shockers are playing a similar style but with different personnel.
“A lot of the same stuff,” Dooley said. “They’re still very good defensive. Defensive numbers are good. Rebounds are good. A lot of the same actions they run though.
“They’ve got different personnel. They got more of a stretch five from the kid (Kenny) Pohto which Gregg really never had. You get more, big bruising, low post bodies which they have in (Morris) Udeze, but they don’t have a number of big bruising bodies that they’ve had previously.
“They’re kind of smaller.”
Dooley talked about the factors that will be needed for a win.
“Handling runs,” he said. “To be a really good college basketball team, you’ve got to handle that. You can’t let Etienne and those guys really get on a roll. If they get hot, they can put up points in bunches and the (Ricky) Council (IV) kid, when he’s been on it’s been terrific.
” … On offense, we need to move it and get good shots because they are very sound defensively.
The Pirates could be a seven, eight or nine seed for the AAC Tournament, which gets started March 10 in Fort Worth.
“it depends on what we do and what Cincinnati does,” Dooley said.
ECU will return to Greenville after taking on the Shockers before venturing west again.
The last time
ECU’s last game against Wichita State on Jan. 1, 2020, a 75-69 loss for the Pirates, was the closest of the five times the teams have played.
Four current ECU players, J.J. Miles (12), Tremont Robinson-White (11), Brandon Suggs (9), and Tristen Newton (2), accounted for 34 points in that contest.
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