Pirates open 2013 against Campbell

Jeff Lebo and the ECU basketball team are hard at work preparing for the Campbell University Camels.

With most of the country preparing for all sorts of New Year festivities, the ECU men's basketball team is hard at work preparing for its first game of 2013 against the Campbell University Camels. The Pirates (8-3) put their 7-0 home record on the line on Wed., Jan. 2, at 7 p.m. inside Minges Coliseum.

ECU is coming off of an impressive 74-63 victory over the Norfolk State Spartans, an NCAA Tournament participant a year ago. The Pirates used a 12-0 run midway through the second half to dispose of the Spartans and look poised to continue the strong play against Campbell.

The Pirates are led by senior forward Maurice Kemp, who is averaging a team-high 18 points per game to go with 8.4 rebounds per game. Point guard Miguel Paul leads the team with 43 assists on the year while averaging 12.3 points per game. On the defensive end, Robert Sampson has been a force for ECU, leading the team with 9.4 rebounds per game and 18 blocked shots on the year.

Kemp is coming off of a season high 23-point performance against Norfolk State. Look for him to continue to excel against the Camels, who have had their share of problems this season.

Campbell enters the game with a 4-9 record, coming off of a 72-60 win over UNC Wilmington on Saturday. After starting the season 2-1, the Camels have lost eight of their last ten games prior to the contest against the Pirates.

One bright spot for Campbell has been the play of senior guard Darren White. White leads the team in both points (22.1) and rebounds (7.0) per game while also posting a team-best 52.7 percent field goal percentage. Though he has missed four of the last six games, White has topped 30 points in three different games this season (all Camel victories), including a 32-point effort against UNC Wilmington.

Obviously, the key for the Pirates will be to slow down White at all costs. He has proven that when he gets hot, this team rallies around him. The Camels have lost every game in which White has been held to under 20 points.

Offensively, the Pirates will need to use their size to their advantage. Campbell only has three players over 6'6" on their roster, whereas the Pirates have six (including Kemp and Sampson). Expect to see ECU try and get some production in the paint, where guys like Kemp and Sampson (or even Ty Armstrong or Marshall Guilmette) should be able to dominate the glass.

With only two non-conference games remaining on the schedule, the Pirates are ready to kick 2013 off with a solid performance. Their first test is a Campbell team that is hungry to turn its season around. I predict ECU will keep its home win-streak alive this Wed. with a 84-71 victory.

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