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ECU faces next road test at Temple

010717Temple

Temple guard Shizz Alston, Jr. (3) shoots against Cincinnati forwards Gary Clark, front, and Kyle Washington during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

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By Tony Castleberry
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Temple and East Carolina are searching for ways to reverse course after recent results have both teams struggling in the early portion of the American Athletic Conference season.

ECU (9-7, 1-2 AAC) faces the Owls (9-7, 0-3) today in the Liacouras Center and both teams bring league losing streaks into the noon tip-off. The Pirates lost their second consecutive American game at Central Florida on Tuesday, and Wednesday’s 79-65 defeat at SMU was Temple’s third straight conference loss.

Win or lose, East Carolina is hoping to build some confidence on offense after woeful scoring efforts against SMU last Saturday and at UCF. Even in the Pirates’ win against South Florida on Dec. 28, they shot just 36.2 percent from the field.

“Our offensive confidence when it’s time to shoot the ball is just not there,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said in a radio interview after Tuesday’s game.

The Pirates’ problems putting the ball in the basket are widespread. In addition to not reaching 40 percent shooting from the field in any of its conference games, ECU has gone 5-of-20, 3-of-20 and 7-of-22 from 3-point range in AAC contests, and free throws have been equally worrisome for Lebo’s club. The Pirates are 32-of-69 (46.3 percent) at the charity stripe in league play.

Before rallying late to put a scare into Central Florida, East Carolina appeared headed for another dubious scoring record. The Pirates, who scored 35 points — a school record for the fewest in a game in the shot clock era — in a loss to College of Charleston on Dec. 15, trailed the Knights 39-22 with 6:03 remaining, but went on a 16-1 run to make it a two-point game at the 1:25 mark.

ECU’s B.J. Tyson, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, had a shot from beyond the arc rim out at the final buzzer that would have tied the score in the 48-45 loss.

“I felt we really battled hard and just fell a little short, ran out of time there at the end,” Lebo said.

THINGS TO WATCH

TEMPLE’S TROUBLES: The Owls have struggled to make shots in league play too, connecting on just 32.4 percent of their field goals in a home loss to Cincinnati and road defeats against UCF and SMU. Coach Fran Dunphy’s team has also been outrebounded by an average of 13.3 boards per game in American contests, and Owls opponents are averaging 20.3 made free throws per outing in American play. 

Junior Obi Enechionyia, a 6-10 forward, leads Temple in scoring (14.8 points per game), rebounds (7.1 per game) and blocked shots (2.1 per game). Shizz Alston Jr., a 6-4 sophomore guard, is the team leader in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (1.8 per game) and averages 12.9 ppg, followed by 6-7 senior Daniel Dingle’s 11.6 average. Enechionyia, Alston and Dingle have started all 16 games for Dunphy this season.

PIRATE PRIMER: Tyson took over the ECU team lead in scoring from Caleb White after a 13-point effort at Central Florida. Tyson’s 12.3 points per game is half a point ahead of White, a 6-7 senior who averages 11.8 ppg. White should be in the starting lineup today after missing the final 8:18 at UCF with a neck injury.

Kentrell Barkley, a 6-5 sophomore forward who led the Pirates with 16 points and nine rebounds against the Knights, averages 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is tied with Tyson for the team lead in assists at 3.1 per outing. Andre Washington, a 7-1 graduate transfer center, is ECU’s leading rebounder (7.5 rpg) and has the most blocked shots (45) in the American. His 2.8 blocks per game average is second in the league and he is averaging a league-best 5.0 blocks per game in AAC play.

Contact Tony Castleberry at tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 and follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

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