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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Challenges get bigger for Pirates


Brian BaileyReplay Monday night's BRIAN BAILEY SHOW, with Brian and guest East Carolina assistant Tim Craftbasketball coach Tim Craft. Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.
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By Brian Bailey
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College basketball is simply a sport where you need to be playing your best basketball in March. Jeff Lebo’s East Carolina team is hoping to follow that thought process.

The Pirates are are on their way after a third straight league win last Saturday night. They pulled away late from Rice, beating the Owls 82-68.

"That was a great win tonight,” said Lebo after the win. “Rice has got a good basketball team, and they were coming in with a lot of confidence. They have a road win against Texas A&M, a team that was preseason picked to win their league.”

The Pirates were led by Darrius Morrow with 16 points. Morrow's contributions are almost a given. The fact that four other Pirates hit double figures is another sign that this team is getting better.

“Offensively, we were really solid tonight,” said Lebo. “We had great balance. It was great to see Corvon Gaines make some shots and play with confidence.”

Gaines had one of his best nights as a Pirate. He had 13 points, five rebounds and a couple of assists. He also had one of four technical fouls in the game, and sat out for a while after that.

Those close to the bench told me that several Rice players and at least one assistant coach had yelled out to Gaines that he couldn’t shoot. Gaines reportedly answered back that he could after he hit a three-pointer and was assessed the technical.

Patience has been a staple of Coach Lebo’s work with this team this year. It was also a key to Saturday night’s win.

"I was just patient,” said Gaines. “Today was a great day for me, I just felt good out there. It's a big team win for us and we just pulled through today.”

“When you are patient the one thing about it is you’re going to have to put the ball on the floor a little bit and make plays at the end of shot clocks and that’s not one of our strong points,” explained Lebo. “We have to get better at that. Our patience was good.

"We shot the ball at a high rate which we need to do. We have to make people defend on the other end by shooting at a high rate on the perimeter."

While the Pirates have struggled at times on offense, this ECU team plays good defense. That trend continued in the Rice game.

“We did a terrific job on the two guys that we needed to stop, (Arsaian) Kazemi and (Connor) Frizzelle,” said Lebo. “We did a good job defensively and overcame a lot of things. We had foul problems with (Darrius) Morrow, but we had a lot of guys that stepped up and played big for us.

"Robert Sampson had some big rebounds for us and really defended well when Morrow was out. He did a good job on Kazemi in the post there."

The Pirates have certainly turned their season around with the three straight wins. But Lebo knows there are several more big hurdles to get over as March approaches.

“We’ve got the best two rebounding teams in the league coming in here next,” said Lebo. “This was an important stretch for us. We knew from here to the end we have Memphis twice, we have Marshall twice. We’ve got four games against teams picked one and two. We’ve got a trip down to Central Florida.

"We needed to get these two here at home. It’s going to get a lot tougher coming down the stretch."

Next up is Memphis, and this Pirate team deserves a packed house to welcome the Tigers to Greenville. Lebo has said many times that he knows the Pirate Nation can make a difference.

They’ll get a chance on Wednesday night!


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02/21/2012 01:45 AM


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