Previewing Old Dominion

The Pirates will end their nine-day hiatus when they host Old Dominion Saturday night at Minges Coliseum. Tip-off time is at 7 p.m.

East Carolina (11-4) begins Conference USA play for the last time as a league member against one the conference's new faces, Old Dominion (6-9).

Indeed, Saturday night marks the Monarchs' inaugural C-USA league game since arriving from the Colonial Athletic Association last summer. It's only fitting their opener comes against a former member of the CAA and an opponent they have met occasionally – ODU leads the head-to-head series 36-13.

The familiarity does not stop there. ODU coach Jeff Jones played for and was an assistant coach under ECU Athletics Director Emeritus Terry Holland at Virginia before becoming the head coach of the Cavaliers in 1990.

Jones was hired at ODU last April after spending eight years in Charlottesville and another 13 at American. He won 358 games along the way and lost just 286 (.567 win percentage).

To make matters more interesting, ECU freshman forward Brandan Stith's father, Bryant, will be on the Monarchs' bench as an assistant coach. Bryant Stith was a stand-out player for Jones at Virginia and was selected 13th overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He went on to play 10 years in the league for three different teams.

Brandan Stith is far and away ECU's best rebounder, having grabbed 142 boards this season (9.5 per game) – which is 75 more than the owner of the second-highest rebounding total (Paris Roberts-Campbell, 67) – and will be relied on again on Saturday.

Although ODU is his primary focus, Stith says playing against his father is unlike anything he has ever done in his young career.

"It is going to weird because I have played with my dad my entire life and to finally play against him, it's probably going to be an awkward feeling," Stith said. "It's been a game that we highlighted on the schedule ever since it came out."

Most of what ODU has done offensively has been predicated on the play of sophomore point guard Aaron Bacote. The 6-4, Hampton, Va. Native averages a team-high 18.6 points and just over three assists per game.

The only other Monarchs to average double-figures scoring are fellow underclassman guards Keenan Palamore (9.9) and freshman Dimitri Batten (11.8).

Bacote led ODU to a 71-66 victory in the Monarchs' non-conference finale last Saturday with 20 points against George Mason. Prior to that, ODU had lost eight of its last nine games and are looking to get its season back on track.

"I think they are getting better," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. "Their back-court players are terrific. They are fast, they are quick, they can play off ball screens (and) they all can score."

The Achilles heel for ODU has been at the free throw line, where the Monarchs have shot just 59 percent this season. Those totals rank ODU 342nd out of the 345 Division I teams nationally.

ODU has not shot the ball well from three-point range either – shooting just under 32 percent. In fact, ECU's senior shooting guard Akeem Richmond has just two fewer 3's made this season (71) as the Monarchs have as a team.

Saturday's game will be carried on WITN in addition to the Pirates IMG Sports Network. Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m.

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