Pirates Host Bulldogs

East Carolina (13-13, 2-9 Conference-USA) hopes to end a losing skid against conference-best Louisiana Tech (21-5, 9-2 C-USA).

East Carolina (13-13, 2-9 Conference-USA) kicks off a three-game homestand with its first ever meeting against Louisiana Tech (21-5, 9-2 C-USA). The Pirates hope to finish off the season above the .500 mark while their opposition aims to break the three-way tie for first place in the conference.

The Bulldogs are arguably the toughest squad left on ECU's schedule. They boast the league's top offense with 84.2 points a game and a conference-best shooting percentage of 46.6 from the field. On the other hand, the Pirates average just about 10 points less a game (74.8).

"Louisiana Tech is maybe the best, most talented team in our league," said head coach Jeff Lebo. "Watching them play—having come from an SEC program—they're probably mid-level SEC talent. They'll turn you over and they've got quickness."

To hang with LA Tech, they'll have to have all their scorers step up instead of just one or two. Last time out, it was Caleb White who led the offensive effort. He scored 17 points en route to a 53-51 loss to North Texas. Michael Zangari was able to establish a presence down low and contribute 11 points and Prince Williams scored 15 off the bench.

Akeem Richmond and Paris Roberts-Campbell—ECU's two strongest offensive weapons—didn't deliver in the same way. The Mean Green kept Roberts-Campbell off the scoreboard and held Richmond to just six points. Roberts-Campbell's inconsistency has been an issue of ECU as of late. In addition to the North Texas game, he was quietly held to just two points in a win over UTSA and has been held to single digits three times in the last seven games.

"It's going to be hard for us to do anything if [Roberts-Campbell] gets under double figures," said Lebo. "He's been struggling in conference play being consistent with his outside shot. We just tell him ‘keep shooting the ball, don't think about it, we believe in you.'"

Roberts-Campbell is confident in his ability to deliver after a pointless effort in Dallas.

"It's kind of hard [to be consistent on offense]," said Roberts-Campbell. "I've been struggling a little bit, but I work out every day. I'm confident in myself and my teammates are confident, so I know I'm going to be able to bounce back."

The key lies in finding a balance among the team's scorers. When the Pirates were successful early in the season, they had a balanced offense. Since conference play began, the story has often leaned towards one or two players having a standout night while other scorers are held to only a handful of points.

On the defensive end of the court, ECU will continue to rely heavily on zone sets. Slowing the Bulldogs is essential because, as much as the Pirates love a fast game, they don't have the bench depth to maintain that kind of pace throughout the game. There's still some adjustment to the zone taking place, but the team has incorporated the defensive strategy well. They've held two of their last four opponents to less than 60 points and six of nine under 70.

"[Zone] is actually a bit easier," said Roberts-Campbell, "because I don't have to chase people off screens as much. It's easier to read their zone sets on their offense. The hardest part is boxing out."

The Bulldogs bring more to the table than a league-leading offense. They run a very aggressive defense, too. They lead C-USA in steals (9.6), turnover margin (16.7) and blocked shots (5.5). Although Michael Zangari and Brandan Stith have done a good job establishing a rim presence for ECU lately, the Pirates may find the Bulldogs forcing a lot of shots to be taken from the perimeter.

That's not usually a problem for them. ECU leads C-USA in both treys per game (8.4) and three-point field goal percentage (36.2). LA Tech has a fix for that, though. The Bulldogs have managed to hold opponents to 28.1 percent from outside the arc. FIU, Tulane and Middle Tennessee have all held ECU below 28 percent from three-point range this season.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Minges Coliseum. The action can be followed on the Pirates IMG Sports Network and on Twitter @InsideECUSports.


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