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Pirates square off with Bulls

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East Carolina's Kentrell Barkley goes up for a shot during their game against Central Florida on Dec. 31, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The East Carolina basketball team will head south tonight in attempt to create some American Athletic Conference momentum against South Florida.

The Pirates (6-7 overall) opened league play with consecutive blowout losses to Tulsa on the road and Central Florida at home on Sunday, a game in which ECU totaled 39 points.

Tonight, ECU and interim head coach Michael Perry hope to climb out of the hole against a Bulls team with an identical 0-2 league record in the wake of setbacks against Houston and SMU.

"We have some hurdles in regards to injuries and some other different things, but we have to handle the adversity and continue to move forward," Perry said of his club, which won four of its final five non-conference games.

But turnovers and poor shooting have haunted the team in its early foray into AAC action.

The Pirates continue to be led by their guard trio of senior B.J. Tyson (team-high 15.3 points per game) and juniors Isaac Fleming (13.3) and Kentrell Barkley (12.0). Senior post man Jabari Craig leads to the team with an average output of seven rebounds per outing, closely followed by 6.7 from Barkley.

The most glaring problem for ECU has been the high number of points surrendered off turnovers.

"The killer right now for us and our Achilles heel is taking care of the basketball," Perry said. "Twenty-one turnovers (against UCF) is a losing number on any level and any game. That many turnovers can just kill you.

"We want to look at a lot of film and all those turnovers we had (against UCF) and how so many of those were self-inflicted. Taking care of of the basketball is going to really be a priority.”

The Bulls boast a pair of double-digit scorers in Payton Banks (13.7 ppg) and Stephan Jiggetts (11.2), who also leads USF in assists.

Like ECU, South Florida also scored 39 points in its last outing. It shot 28.0 percent from the field against SMU in Dallas on Sunday, ultimately losing 79-39.

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