Pirates look to stop surging Panthers

Georgia State (6-6) visits Minges Coliseum to take on East Carolina (10-3). The Pirates look to secure a win and start the season off 11-3 for the first time since 1996.

East Carolina (10-3) plays host to the Georgia State (6-6) Sunday afternoon. The Pirates will be looking to rebound from a 90-79 loss to North Carolina State in their last outing.

To do so, though, they'll have to slow a rolling Georgia State team that is coming off its most impressive performance thus far this season. The Panthers are also on a three-game winning streak and have only lost once in their last five outings.

However, Georgia State was also riding a three-game winning streak heading into last season's meeting, which it lost.

Sophomore guard R.J. Hunter led Georgia State to a 99-68 victory over UTSA with a record-setting performance. He sank 12 of his 19 three-point attempts and totaled 41 points in the contest.

Ryan Harrow has been a major force for the Panthers, too. The junior guard is averaging just under 20 points per game. He's scored 20 or more points in eight games and 30 or more twice.

ECU is no stranger to scoring. Through 13 games, the Pirates are averaging over 85 points per game. Senior guard Akeem Richmond, who scored 23 points against the Wolfpack, is leading the team with an average of 18.6 points per game. Paris Roberts-Campbell and Caleb White are also consistent contributors on the scoreboard with an average of 14.4 and 12.7, respectively.

The biggest problem N.C. State presented was its size. Between BeeJay Anya (6'9") and Jordan Vandenberg (7'1"), the Pirates were having a hard time getting shots off down low.

ECU could experience a similar problem against Georgia State. Starting forward Curtis Washington is a 6'9", 240-pound body that's leading the Sun Belt and is 15th in the NCAA with 3.3 blocks per game.

Even so, the Pirates should hold their own. Without a second huge body to come off the bench—like Vandenberg for N.C. State—Georgia shouldn't be able to force ECU out to the perimeter quite like the Wolfpack did.

As a team, ECU is averaging 38.5 rebounds a game. Freshman Brandan Stith is leading the team with an average of 9.5 every contest. Both offensive and defensive rebounds will be important to ECU's scoring chances because Georgia State is so stingy with turnovers. With only 8.8 turnovers per game, the Panthers are leading the NCAA.

Rebounding was a key to ECU's 62-53 win over Georgia State last year in Atlanta. The Pirates won the rebound battle 47-26 and held the Panthers to just five offensive rebounds. However, ECU also had a noticeable edge in experience last year.

This time around, ECU has a pretty young squad. Stith and White—both key players for the Pirates—are freshmen. Michael Zangari, a sophomore forward, is a leader in the frontcourt. Then there's Richmond, a senior, who is the lone returning starter in the backcourt.

Hunter is the youngest starter for Georgia State. The Panthers have a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors that make up the remainder of their starting lineup, so it would seem they have the experience edge this time around.

Even so, the Pirates have proven to have the deeper bench. Rashaad Richardson is the only Panther to average more than five points off the bench. ECU, on the other hand, has four players averaging double digits and another four averaging over five points per game.

ECU is looking to start off 11-3 for the first time since 1996. Sunday's showdown is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Minges Coliseum. ECU fans can follow the game on the Pirates IMG Network.

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