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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 27, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Big challenge means big opportunity

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


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Bailey: Big challenge means big opportunity
Batten: 4.4 'glider' ready for offense or defense
O'Brien: McCarthy facing imposing tasks
BVL: East Carolina corrals Mustangs
Myatt: ECU seeks to break roadkill role
BVL: Houston smacks Pirates
Bradsher: Shaving times, shaving bodies
Bailey: Shakeup preceding road trip
O'Brien: Continuity key to ECU’s success

Opportunity comes to the door riding a 47-game Conference USA winning streak on Wednesday night.

Memphis, a team that came so close to winning the national championship last season, is off and running again this year.
The Tigers are 16-3 and 5-0 in league play.

The last time Memphis suffered a C-USA loss was March 2, 2006, when the Tigers fell on the road to Alabama-Birmingham 80-74.

Pirate coach Mack McCarthy understands the significance of the long conference winning streak.

"It’s unbelievably impressive,” said McCarthy. “I was a part of some long winning streaks in the Southern Conference and it’s really hard to maintain that. It’s really hard to keep that thing going.”

Coach Mack says the only way to keep a streak like that going is to get intense effort on a consistent basis.

“Two things stand out about Memphis,” he said. “Number one, they play hard every single night, and very few teams in America can say that. The other thing is that they are athletic as heck, and they can beat you a lot of different ways because of their athleticism.”

The Tigers are tall and athletic and that’s been a tough combination for East Carolina this season. ECU hung tough with Wake Forest for the first half, before being blown out in the second half by the Deacons.

“They are probably more similar to Wake Forest than any team we’ve played," McCarthy said. "They press a little bit more and they do more off the dribble. They have a little less structure from an offensive standpoint, but it’s a very sophisticated offense when it comes to spacing and what they are trying to do with it.”

The Pirate players had a little hop in their step at Monday’s practice. That’s what a victory on the road will do for a struggling team. The Pirates hope the 80-74 win over Southern Methodist provides momentum going into Wednesday night’s clash with the 18th-ranked Tigers.

Freshman Darrius Morrow scored a career-high 21 points to lead five Pirates in double figures. Brock Young continued to play well, scoring 16 points and dishing out 11 assists for his fifth double-double of the season. James Legan and Jamar Abrams both had 14 points, while Sam Hinnant had an even dozen.

“We’re very excited,” said Legan. “A win over Memphis would mean a lot to this program.”

Morrow agreed. “If we can be the team that snaps the streak, it would be amazing,” he said.

Coach McCarthy knows what his team has to do in order to upset Memphis on Wednesday night.

“Staying out of foul trouble and rebounding are the keys for us every single game,” said McCarthy. “We have to match their intensity which is really difficult. The second thing is that we have to play well for forty minutes because they keep coming at you, in waves, they keep coming at you.

"Also, this place needs to be rocking!”

Williams Arena can be an intimidating place for the opposition. Coach Mack and his band of Pirates are hoping to provide a house of horrors for John Calipari and company this week.

It’s happened before. Just ask current Indiana coach Tom Crean.

Crean had his Marquette team ranked 9th in the nation both years, but limped out of Greenville with back to back losses on Feb. 26, 2002 and Dec. 30, 2002.

This Memphis team is loaded, but not as good as last year’s national runner-up squad that lost to Kansas. Still, that Conference USA winning streak has continued on to 47 in a row.

Williams Arena should be rocking Wednesday night. It’s the type of game that can really catapult a program.

Opportunity will certainly be knocking.


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01/27/2009 01:18:28 AM


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