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View from the 'ville
Thursday, February 14, 2008

By Al Myatt

Memphis sharing the limelight

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Every team in Conference USA, which includes top-ranked Memphis, is getting its turn in the national spotlight. That was East Carolina coach Mack McCarthy's take on the situation when asked if the Tigers' success was diminishing focus on the rest of the league.

"I think it kind of highlights what the rest of the conference is doing," McCarthy said. "On one hand, no one has been able to beat 'em but Houston played well against them (Jan. 30). UTEP played well in Memphis the other day.

"I think you begin to shine the light on them a little bit. There's Houston at (18-4). UAB, despite a couple of personnel losses — one academically and one injury-wise — they're 6-2 in the league and 17-7 overall and starting to play really well.

"Tulane with Dave Dickerson has done a heckuva job. UTEP played extremely well the other day. Central Florida is really talented. There are a lot of good stories — Marshall improving under Donnie Jones. Southern Miss — when they shoot the basketball — they can play with anybody in the league.

"I think you can go right down through the league and tell a good story about everybody. I think the attention on Memphis is actually bringing more attention to the other good stories in the league."

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 22 points as the Tigers rallied from their first halftime deficit since facing Southern California in New York on Dec. 4 with a 68-59 victory over Houston on Wednesday night.

The Tigers have won 47 straight games at the FedEx Forum, 53 consecutive regular season games and 33 in a row in C-USA.

Memphis is 24-0 overall and 10-0 in the league with a shot at becoming the first unbeaten Division I team in college hoops since Indiana in 1976.

Pirates beaten on boards

In the context of an 83-49 loss at Marshall on Saturday, East Carolina was working on a good story of its own on Wednesday night as the Pirates led Tulsa by eight points in the second half.

ECU was up 33-25 with 18:36 to go after trailing by as many as nine points in the first half. The Pirates' largest lead came after Darrell Jenkins assisted James Legan on a three-pointer. Legan hit five of his nine three-point attempts and led ECU with 18 points.

Jenkins surpassed 300 assists for his Pirate career, the fifth player in school history to reach that plateau.

But the Golden Hurricane came back to spoil the occasion with a 66-61 win in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

"We expected a defensive game," McCarthy said. "We knew we weren't going to score a whole lot of points but the answer to that was we kept them from scoring very many."

ECU is 6-1 this season when scoring 70 or more points.

"We're mainly a jump shooting team," McCarthy said. "We have some post players who can score but they're not going to post you up and draw contact. We really don't have anybody who can drive and finish at the rim — maybe Brandon Evans a little bit."

One glaring disparity on a fairly-balanced stat sheet was Tulsa's 45-33 lead in rebounding.

"The rebounding is probably the difference," said the Pirates coach. "Free throws were about even. The threes are about even. The twos are about even. Turnovers are about even. We both shared the ball well. The difference comes down to the backboard where they had 19 offensive rebounds."

None of the caroms claimed off Tulsa's offensive glass were any bigger than that of Calvin Walls with 50 seconds left when his follow shot put the visitors ahead to stay at 62-60.

McCarthy said Walls set a screen to free up the initial shooter on the play and the defensive rotation failed to check him off the board.

Still, the Pirates were much more competitive than in Saturday's game at Marshall.

"Our guys played as together and as well as they have in a while," McCarthy said. "I'm hurting for them because they gave such a great effort tonight."

Other than the final score there was another disappointing aspect to the loss and that was a lack of crowd support. Pirate fans showed the impact they can have in a 75-69 win over N.C. State earlier this season when the building was virtually full and rocking.

Attendance was announced at 3,731 on Wednesday night but looked smaller. The figure probably included tickets sold with quite a few no-shows. The homecourt advantage that was so pronounced against the Wolfpack just wasn't there.

"Meet the Pirates" sold out

ECU officials have announced that there are no more tickets available for the "Meet the Pirates" baseball event in Harvey Hall of the Murphy Center on Saturday. Players will be on hand for pictures and autographs at 11 a.m. A catered meal will be served.

In the past, the event has served as the forum for the announcement as to which player has been selected to wear No. 23 in honor of late ECU baseball coach Keith LeClair. The Pirates have an intrasquad scrimmage at 3 p.m. at Clark-LeClair Stadium and will be introduced at halftime of the Southern Miss basketball game, which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

The Pirates open the season on Friday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m. with the first of a three-game series at South Carolina. ECU's first home game is a week later, Feb. 29, at 5 p.m. against Monmouth.

Preseason rankings have the Pirates No. 24 nationally, according to Baseball America, and second in C-USA — behind Rice — in a poll of league coaches.

Third-year coach Billy Godwin has his staff returning intact. That group includes hitting coach Link Jarrett, pitching coach Bill Jarman, volunteer assistant Ben Sanderson and director of baseball operations, Brian Cavanaugh.

Sanderson was the first Pirate to wear No. 23 after LeClair when Sanderson was a senior in 2003. Cavanaugh wore it in 2005. Others to be so honored because they displayed the qualities of hustle, determination and desire that Coach LeClair exemplified include Jamie Paige in 2004, Adam Witter in 2006 and Chris Powell last season.

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02/28/2008 12:52:11 AM


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