East Carolina continued a special
basketball season under first-year coach Jeff Lebo with
a 68-57 win over Memphis
in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday night.
The Pirates had never beaten the
Tigers in hoops. Then again, ECU has never had as many as eight
wins in Conference USA. In improving to 16-13 overall, 8-7 in
the league, Lebo designed a game plan to neutralize Memphis'
"The big thing coming in was to
try to clog up the inside and make their perimeter players shoot
the ball from the outside, be in gaps and take away driving
lanes with good help," Lebo said. "If we could keep them out of
transition situations and we could keep them somehow off the
offensive board — that's where they really excel is in
transition and in offensive rebounding. And they're pretty good
"I thought the second half we
did a nice job of that. The first half we gave them too many
offensive rebounds and we also gave them too many transition
baskets. I thought against their half-court stuff, we did a
pretty good job offensively. They're athletic. They're quick.
They're long. They're No. 1 in the league in field goal
percentage defense. We made some big shots obviously in the
second half at the end of some shot clocks that were timely and
just gigantic shots."
Jamar Abrams hit a pair of
threes and Jontae Sherrod connected from behind the arc in a
13-1 ECU run that expanded the Pirates lead from 47-46 with 8:35
left to 60-47 with 3:31 remaining.
Sherrod finished with 28
points, including six free throws in the final 1:12.
The Pirates played with
patience on offense.
"We wanted to try to make them
defend," Lebo said. "We didn't want to shoot the ball too quick
against them. You shoot it quick, you take the first sort of
halfway open one — that's the first pass for them toward their
transition offense. We were patient and we got the ball inside a
little bit better in the second half to (Darrius) Morrow."
Abrams and Morrow each had 11
points for the Pirates.
Pirates rise to the
"It was a big game for a lot of
reasons," Lebo said. "We had never beaten Memphis. ... It was
Senior Night. It was a game where we could get to eight (C-USA)
wins, which hadn't been done here before. It would put us closer
to having a winning season, which is the first time in 14 years
that that's happened and you're playing on television against a
team that's a national program. It was a great night. I'm really
happy for the four seniors (Sherrod, Abrams, Chad Wynn and Brock
Young) in particular. It was a great team win but I was really
happy for those guys.
"Now they can leave out of here
as winners. A win on Senior Night is a hard thing to do. The
emotions are on. We had a great crowd (5,856) for Wednesday
night. Our students were there. It was just a real emotional
evening. It was a perfect night and I was happy for our team."
On top of all that, it was
Morrow's 21st birthday.
"His Mom (Felissa) surprised
him, flew up (from Atlanta), he didn't know," Lebo said. "She
brought him a cake. He was surprised to see her. It was a good
On to UAB
The Pirates face league-leading
UAB (21-7, 11-4 C-USA) on the road at 8 p.m. Saturday, a
sobering reality after the giddiness of Wednesday night.
"With the change in the league
schedule we lose Tulane and Rice twice and get UAB and Memphis
twice," Lebo said. "But with each game it gives you an
opportunity. I think UAB is maybe the best team in the league.
They've got a ton at stake in this game. It's their Senior
Night. They're fighting for an outright regular season
Conference USA championship. They're fighting for an NCAA
Tournament bid right now.
"They have a lot riding on this
game. They have two terrific seniors in the backcourt (Jamarr
Sanders, Aaron Johnson) who are really, really good. They're
well coached (Mike Davis). They defend. They play together. They
do all the things that good teams do but I think our kids will
be excited to play.
"You're playing meaningful
basketball here in March. We've won three in a row. We've been
resilient and we've played for the most part, pretty decent on
the road. We'll see what happens when we go there."
Sanders had 26 points when UAB
topped the Pirates 66-59
in Greenville on Jan. 17.
"He beat us singlehandedly the
second half here," Lebo said. "He was unbelievable. He can do
Wynn back for lengthy trip
Chad Wynn played five minutes
against Memphis, hitting two free throws and grabbing a pair of
rebounds as he returned from a suspension for a violation of
"He's reinstated and will be
available for us," Lebo said.
The Pirates will travel to UAB
"We won't come back after UAB,"
said the Pirates coach. "We'll stay there on Sunday and then fly
from Birmingham to El Paso on Monday. We'll be on spring break
so no use to travel all the way back to the East Coast. We'll
just go right from there."
UTEP is hosting the C-USA
Tournament, sponsored by Buick, which begins Wednesday at the
12,000-seat Don Haskins Center in El Paso, TX.