Pirates renew rivalry with Seahawks

ECU (6-1) welcomes UNC-Wilmington (4-5) to Minges Coliseum Sunday at 5 p.m. for the schools' 61st all-time meeting.

East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington have met on 60 different occasions dating back to 1963 and had some memorable battles in the 1990's. And over time, a rivalry was born.

But in recent years, the series has been put on the shelf. Sunday night's game at Minges Coliseum will be the first meeting between the two in-state foes since 2008 – a game ECU won 99-85.

Prior to 2008, Wilmington had the Pirates number – taking four of the last five meetings – and owns the advantage in the all-time series 33-27. And although none of the players that will play on Sunday have partaken in the series, it is still a game that many players, coaches and fans on both sides have circled on their calenders.

"It should be a big game, it's like a rivalry between us two. So we're coming in ready to compete and put a win up," said ECU point guard Prince Williams.

A lot has happened since 2008, though. This year's Pirates (6-1) are attempting to parlay its success from April's CollegeInsider.com Tournament Championship into back-to-back winning seasons, which has not been accomplished since the Joe Dooley era in the mid-1990s.

Current coach Jeff Lebo's has obtained similar results early on this season despite weathering a complete overhaul in personnel. Instead of relying on a post-scorer as a primary source of offense as Lebo had done in his previous three seasons at ECU, he has leaned on a small lineup.

Two of ECU's returning leaders, Paris Roberts-Campbell and Akeem Richmond, have been the central cogs to the Pirates are doing offensively in the early part of this season.

In addition to being arguably the team's best perimeter defender, Roberts-Campbell is averaging 15.9 points a game and captured his third 20-point outing of the year in an 81-70 win against UNC-Asheville last Tuesday. The 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard's career-high entering the season was 17 points.

Richmond attracts the lions-share of attention from opposing defenses coming off a season he hit a school-record 105 three-pointers. Even though he has carried a more demanding workload, Richmond is off to a great start to his senior campaign – averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game and draining several late-game baskets to lead ECU to its fast start.

But for the most part, Roberts-Campbell and Richmond's contributions have not been far from a shock.

What has been a pleasant surprise for ECU is the play of Williams. The bulky, 6-foot-5 point guard sat behind seniors Miguel Paul and Corvonn Gaines last season, but due to injuries was able to make a considerable impact during the team's CIT run.

Last week, Williams scored a career-best 19 points against Asheville -- which was one week removed from setting his previous career-high (15) against the sixth ranked Duke Blue Devils in Durham. Also, he has collected 27 assists to just 15 turnovers through seven games this season.

"It's more of a confidence thing that I've been working on in practice and coaches have been telling me that and to stick to my game," Williams said of his recent scoring outbursts. "It just happened to work out for me throughout the season."

Although, with every breakout game that Williams has had, there have been outings he has struggled. In order for ECU to continue adding to its string of wins, Lebo knows it must have quality performances at the point guard position on a game-to-game basis.

"(Williams) is learning to be accountable, dependable and reliable out there," said Lebo. We're looking for some consistency out of him. I think Antonio Robinson and he have done a good job for us … at the guard spots."

Wilmington (4-5) enters Minges Coliseum looking to rebound from a 60-55 loss at home to Stephen F. Austin Friday. The Seahawks are in the midst of a difficult non-conference slate having already faced Iowa, Iowa State and Marshall on the road. In addition to traveling to ECU, Wilmington will also play North Carolina in the Dean Smith Center before starting Colonial Athletic Association play.

Buzz Peterson's club is led by the duo of juniors Cedrick Williams and Addison Spruill. Both players average double-figures scoring with Williams shooting 56 percent from the floor through nine games.

"I know they have played a lot of tough games on the road," said Lebo. "They've won at Charleston-Southern. We've scrimmaged Charleston-Southern and know how good they are. They have won at Liberty so they have played well on the road. Coming off a disappoint loss at home (Friday) night, they'll be ready to play against us in this game."

ECU forward Marshall Guilmette missed each of last week's NIT Season Tip-Off wins at Rhode Island due to his nagging knee injury. According to Lebo, the 6-10, 250-pound sophomore will miss Sunday's game as well. The timetable for his return is unknown.

Tip-off time is set for 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on WITN (TV) and the Pirate IMG Sports Network on radio.

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