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View from the East
Friday, January 13, 2012

By Al Myatt

Pirates facing tall order

Jeff Lebo
(File photo by Al Myatt)


Pirates facing tall order
Football Recruiting: Four Thumbnails Added
Q&A with Brian Mitchell
Pirates get a breather after stiff trials
Q&A with Lincoln Riley
Rompza: Smallest Knight has big night
ECU-UCF Photo Gallery
Audio: Lebo, Paul and Morrow Postgame
Final Conference USA Bowl Scoreboard
UCF, Jordan the Younger get Pirates' attention
Big-play athlete Crump plots path to ECU
One-on-One with...
(ECU Media Relations File Photos)

Bonesville features writer Ron Cherubini conducted one-on-one interviews with East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (left) and Pirate defensive boss Brian Mitchell (right). Links to the wide-ranging Q&A sessions:

Lincoln Riley Q&A
Brian Mitchell Q&A

By Al Myatt
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For those who witnessed the influence of Central Florida's size in an 81-63 win at East Carolina last week, incoming Tulsa looks like the crates the Knights were shipped in.

The Golden Hurricane arrives for a 1 p.m. tipoff Saturday. The Pirates (9-6) will have had a week of preparation as they try to avoid an 0-3 start in Conference USA.

ECU coach Jeff Lebo said it's vital for his team to shoot well in order to offset the advantage Tulsa will have with its superior height.

"We've done a lot of shooting," said the Pirates coach. "We're in a situation where we're going to have to be able to shoot the ball from the perimeter at a high rate. One thing I think we need to do is be able to shoot it from some more spots. We can shoot it maybe from two spots. We need to be able to shoot it from four spots. With our size, we're going to be at a disadvantage every night in our league. People are just going to be bigger and stronger than we're going to be every night in the league.

"We've got to find a way to try to neutralize that. Rebounding doesn't become as much of a key if you can make some shots from the perimeter."

The Pirates try to simulate game conditions and give players lots of repetitions when practicing shooting.

"We have them moving at game speed, trying to get them to have good footwork," Lebo said. "We try to work with their skill level and their skill package. Shooting is mechanics. It's also repetition and confidence. That's something that we've constantly got to work with our group about."

Lebo sized up the challenge facing ECU on Saturday and it's literally a big one.

"They're gigantic," he said of Tulsa. "They're 7-2 (David Wishon), 6-11 1/2 (Kodi Maduka), 6-11 (Steven Idlet), 6-9, 265 (D.J. Magley). Their guards are very big. They're extremely physical, the most physical team we've played to date. Their record (8-9 overall, 1-2 C-USA) is no indication of how good this team is. They may be seven possessions away from losing only one game. Preseason, I thought they were probably the second best team in the league, maybe the best team in the league.

"They've had some hard times, losing a ton of close games. Their schedule has been really difficult. The only team that really beat them has been Creighton (83-64, Dec. 19). They've had as tough a schedule as anyone in the league. They're really good."

Tulsa's two C-USA losses have been by a total of three points, 70-69 in overtime at Houston and 57-55 at home to Southern Methodist.

Could the Pirates possibly run on a team with Tulsa's size?

"It would be nice if we could stop them," Lebo said. "You can't run them unless you stop them and get a rebound. We're fast in some areas but not in others. If we were fast at every spot, I'd like to be able to do that. They are big. They are strong. They're a halfcourt team. They grind on you. It will be a tough game on us from a physical standpoint. They have three inside guys who are seniors (Idlet, Magley and Joe Richard). They've got four post guys who are big and strong. Idlet (9.7 points per game) has pretty much started his whole career. ... They're getting tremendous play out of Kodi Maduka (8.1 points, 7.0 rebounds). He's a redshirt kid who's really playing well for them.

"They've got Jordan Clarkson (15.0 points), who had a heckuva year for them last year as a freshman. Scottie Haralson (10.7 points) is a transfer from UConn. He can really, really shoot it. He went to UConn. That tells you he's pretty good. They're a big, strong team that's fundamentally sound, that defends you, that pounds it inside. There's no secret against us they're going to try to pound it in there."

Earlier tipoff

Starting time for the Tulsa game was moved up to 1 p.m. several weeks ago to accommodate television. Lebo approves.

"I love 'em," Lebo said of the earlier start. "There's nothing worse than waiting to play. I'd just as soon go ahead and play. When I was a player I would rather play at night. As a coach, I'd rather play at 1. Let's get ready and go do it."

The game is scheduled to be shown on WITN-TV-7. Lebo was uncertain how that would impact attendance but second semester has started which should mean greater presence from the student body.

Texas trip pending, then return visit from USM

After the Tulsa game, the Pirates play their next two games in the Lone Star state. ECU visits Texas-El Paso for a 9 p.m. (EST) start on Wednesday. Then it's on to Houston for an 8 p.m. (EST) game on Saturday, Jan. 21.

ECU won't return home between games.

"We looked at it but if you did as soon as you landed and got back to campus, you'd have to turn around and get back on the bus to start out again," Lebo said. "We'll stay out there. You've got to go through Houston anyhow for us to come back. We'll fly to Houston and have a morning practice, prepare Thursday-Friday, play on Saturday and come home on Sunday."

The Pirates will play Southern Miss for the second time in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday, Jan. 25. ECU opened C-USA play against the Golden Eagles with a 78-76 loss in Hattiesburg on Jan. 4.

The league schedule has ECU playing Southern Miss twice before meeting several of its home and away opponents for the first time.

"There's quirks in the schedule that the conference has to work through because of travel, television and outside games and all that kind of stuff," Lebo said. " ... It doesn't matter. You've got to play them all at some point."

Quick recruiting trip

With more time than usual between games, Lebo spent some time away from campus this week.

"I went to see a kid who we had already signed and also did some stuff with some underclassmen," said the ECU coach. "I had a chance to go out for a day and a half. It's hard for me to get out during the season because you get separated from the team. I had a chance to get out and see some kids play."

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01/13/2012 05:39 AM


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