nearly pulling off one the biggest upsets in school history against Wake
Forest, the East Carolina basketball team came home for what was nearly
a rude awakening. Despite trailing at halftime, the Pirates edged
out Division II Saint Paul’s to take their sixth win of the year, and
steer themselves back in the right direction for the start of
conference play. East Carolina opens play in Conference USA with
the league's toughest team, the Memphis Tigers, on Wednesday January 11.
forget, this is a Pirate team that was left for dead just a few short
weeks ago. The Pirates had lost five straight games, and the
toughest part of the schedule was on the horizon. The Pirates
headed into the Christmas break losers of five in a row, probably
thinking themselves the season was all but over.
turns out just the opposite that is true. The Pirates' season is
just beginning, and to be honest, aside from going undefeated, the only
shot ECU has to make it in the NCAA tournament is to win in the
Conference USA tournament. That being said, every game played to
this point has been essentially exhibition. The Pirates
non-conference schedule has been nothing more than preparation for the
14 game conference slate in which they are about to embark.
addition of Jeremy Ingram has been huge. The Wake Forest transfer has
transformed the Pirates into a different team. Known for his
defensive tenacity, Ingram’s presence has amounted to an average of
four less points allowed per game. The addition of Ingram has
also paid dividends offensively. In the seven games prior to
Ingram’s arrival, the Pirates reached the 80 point mark once. In
the six games since his arrival, the Pirates have eclipsed 80 three
times. 80 has been somewhat a magic number for the Pirates.
East Carolina has now won six straight, and 17 of its last 18 when
scoring 80 plus.
the season the Pirates showed very little promise offensively.
With little or no scoring threat inside, the Pirates were limited to
try and score from the outside. When you live by the three, you
die by the three, and that was the story for the Pirates.
However, the addition of Ingram has changed the Pirates offensive story.
Although Ingram gives the Pirates another shooter from the outside,
Ingram’s defense has translated into offense for the Pirates.
Ingram’s five steals led East Carolina to a season high thirteen in the
close loss to Wake. The defensive improvement has led to more
fast breaks and easy basket opportunities for the Pirates.
the year the Pirates seemed like a team that was searching for its
identity. An identity the Pirates seem to have found in hard nose
defense. Like Ricky Stokes' teams of the past, it is defense that
will lead the way if this team is to be successful. Although
(6-7) is not how the Pirates would have liked to enter the conference
slate, the team has clearly learned and grown from their mistakes.
what the Pirates have to look forward to in conference play.
Under Conference USA’s new format, ECU will play each team in the
league at least once, and will play three teams in a home and home
series. The Pirates three mirror teams are Marshall, UCF and
Tulane, three less than stellar teams currently in the bottom half of
the Conference standings. The Pirates also play two of
their toughest league opponents, Memphis and Houston, at home.
Don’t be surprised if the Pirates end up as one of the four teams with
a first round bye in the conference tournament.