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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

By Brian Bailey

Pirates get a breather after stiff trials

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Central Florida came to Greenville and put a physical beat down on East Carolina on Saturday.

The Knights were bigger and stronger. Their lineup featured a couple of fullbacks and linebackers, and the Pirates never had an answer in the 81-63 drubbing.

East Carolina was outrebounded 46-29. It was a rare instance when Jeff Lebo’s Pirates were just totally outplayed.

“We just got whipped,” said Coach Lebo after the loss. [View postgame audio replay page in a new window.] “There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Physically (we) weren’t even in the area code tonight. I give them credit. They are big. They are physical. We obviously had matchup problems tonight.”

Lebo knew going into the UCF game that his team didn’t match up well with the Knights.

“We are light and small at the four position with (Maurice) Kemp and (Robert) Sampson,” Lebo explained. "We got our shots blocked a lot. We had a lot blocked or deflected inside. They are big. We got it inside in the first half and just didn’t finish.

"We haven’t been very aggressive to start games. They shot it at a high rate and when they missed they got 16 offensive rebounds.”

East Carolina rallied in the second half and finally latched on to some momentum. Then Pirate Miguel Paul was whistled for a technical foul, and things went south from there.

“You have to be disciplined as a basketball player to keep your mouth shut,” said Lebo. “That hurt us. We had a little bit of momentum at that point. It just demoralizes the team when something happens that is very unintelligent and undisciplined. It is very frustrating.”

East Carolina now gets set for a little bit of an early conference season break this week. The Pirates don’t have a midweek game and get back after it this Saturday with a home game against Tulsa.

The Pirates opened the conference slate with a pair of very different losses. East Carolina was an underdog in both games. The Pirates battled Southern Miss to the buzzer, falling 78-76. Saturday’s loss was a bit more demoralizing.

Tulsa comes to town this weekend. Then the Pirates hit the road for the Lone Star state, playing at UTEP and then at Houston.

That upcoming road trip really makes the Tulsa game that much more important.

If there is a silver lining, East Carolina has played two excellent Conference USA teams. Southern Miss and UCF are a combined 4-0 in league play and a combined 27-5 overall.

Tulsa will come to Greenville with a losing record. UTEP and Houston are both hovering around the .500 mark.

Lebo had hinted a while back that he had found that year two in rebuilding projects is usually more difficult than year one.

Last year Lebo inherited an experienced team that finally found success after buying into the new program.

This year all of the new faces have come together to struggle at times. The problems scoring the basketball resurfaced in the loss to UCF.

The last time the Pirates had a break in the schedule, the team ran off a five-game winning streak. That streak started after the Pirates took their ten day exam break.

This time it’s basically a six-day break. Lebo will find better matchups over the next couple of weeks, and it all starts with Tulsa.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

PAGE UPDATED 01/10/12 06:06 AM.

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