Pirates look for first C-USA win against FAU

After dropping its first Conference-USA game to Old Dominion, East Carolina (11-5) looks for its first conference win in South Florida against Florida Atlantic (5-11).

East Carolina (11-5) hopes to even out its Conference-USA record in Boca Raton, Fla when the Pirates meet Florida Atlantic (5-11).

Like Old Dominion, who handed ECU an 81-70 loss in the first conference matchup of the season, FAU is a newcomer to C-USA. The Owls will look to make an impact against one of the conference's more decorated teams this season.

Head coach Jeff Lebo is confident his team will effectively rebound when it hits the road for Thursday's game.

"I got good guys," said Lebo. "They come back and they learn from their mistakes. I think there's four areas when you look at our team this year that have been pretty consistent that we have to fix. That's guarding the ball and having some ball-screen defense. That's acceptable. And also toughness: them being able to stop the ball in transition. The ball got to the front of the rim too easily. That's been a problem when we've played against good guards all year."

ECU's interior defense was a major factor in its loss to ODU. The Monarchs earned 50 of their 81 points in the paint.

If defending the rim has been a problem when the opposition has good guards, then the Pirates may continue to struggle in that regard against FAU. C-USA leading scorer Akeem Richmond (19.6 points per game) will be facing a strong counterpart. Pablo Bertone (18.6 points per game) ranks right behind Richmond as the conference's number two scorer.

Fortunately for the Pirates, FAU only managed a mere 18 points in the paint in their last outing—a 73-68 win over Rice.

The team as a whole is looking to recover after a tough loss to ODU. Richmond, specifically, is hoping to rebound after a less-than-ideal performance. He only tallied 14 points—all of which came in the second half.

"I'm very disappointed in my performance against ODU," said Richmond. "So, I'm looking to come out and my mind is saying ‘you're not losing any of these games on the road.'"

Even though Richmond had a below average night, others stepped up to fill in the scoring gap. Paris Roberts-Campbell led the Pirates with 21 points, Michael Zangari had 11 and Petar Torlak had a career-high 12.

"We've got it on offense," said Richmond. "The last game we lost because of defense. We've got enough scorers in myself, PRC, Prince [Williams] and a lot of other guys. We've just got to bring it defensively."

The offense is there. The Pirates can't give the Owls easy points down low.

This game is the first of a two-game trip in Florida. After Thursday's game, the Pirates will hang around in South Florida to take on Florida International on Saturday.

"I feel like we've been having too many breaks this year," said Richmond. "Nine-day breaks, sort of like last week. I'm looking forward to playing games back-to-back like that."

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday. The game can be followed on the Pirates IMG Network and on Twitter at @InsideECUSports.


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