The Pirates will be returning home after an unsuccessful trip in South Florida that saw them drop consecutive decisions to C-USA newcomers Florida Atlantic and Florida International. On that trip, they had their two worst offensive games of the season. FAU held them to 67 points and FIU held them to 64.
ECU will likely be playing without Brandan Stith this time. The 6'7" freshman averages 8.7 rebounds, making him a key player. Stith only had two rebounds against FIU before he left the game with an injury. The Panthers ended up outrebounding ECU 32-29.
That said, Michael Zangari will have to take on an even bigger role. Head coach Jeff Lebo and company have already been leaning heavily on Zangari with fellow sophomore Marshall Guilmette out for the season.
"He's really improved and you can see that in his game," said Lebo. "He's worked hard at it and he's probably played more in the last game than he played all of last year combined. He's going to have to play a lot of minutes in this game."
Zangari played 39 minutes last time out—11 more minutes than he logged in 10 C-USA games last season.
The lone big man has definitely done well with his new responsibilities. After Akeem Richmond was held to just nine points at FIU, Zangari now has the longest active double figures scoring streak among all Pirates. He has scored at least 10 points in each of the last five games.
With all the injuries, Prince Williams will likely be backing up Zangari at center. Williams is typically a guard, but the depleted roster forced Lebo to make some changes.
"Initially I thought it was a joke," said Williams about the switch up, "but it's something that we've come to due to injuries. It doesn't matter to me. I'll do whatever I need to do to help my team…I'm tough enough to go down there and bang a little bit. I don't think it'll be that much of a problem. It's going to take some getting used to, but I can adjust to it."
Richmond is one of few players that will stick to his position. ECU will need him to bounce back in a big way. The squad's lead scorer went just 3-12 from the field at FIU. Poor shooting is something that needs to be fixed across the board, though. ECU only made 40 percent from the field in the second stanza after coming into it with a four-point lead and was 44 percent on the night.
That's not the only place the Pirates left points. They went 14-24 from the free throw line against FIU. Getting to the line is usually a for the Pirates, but that percentage was their worst since opening night.
Even so, ECU still comes into this game ranked as the conference's best free-throw shooting team. Tulane ranks second, though. Not only does that mean ECU can't afford to miss so many free throws, but it also means the Pirates can't get away with giving the Green Wave as many free throws as they gave FIU. The only reason the ECU-FIU decision was so close is because FIU went 16-26 from the line. It could have been a lot uglier.
This game will be part one of a two game stand in Minges. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can be found on the Pirates IMG Network and live updates on Twitter by following @InsideECUSports.