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Pirates await No. 5 Shockers

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East Carolina interim head coach Michael Perry yells during a game against Central Florida on Dec. 31, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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BY NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kentrell Barkley said on Wednesday he had not given much thought to Wichita State’s No. 5 national ranking as the Shockers come to town to take on the East Carolina basketball team on Thursday night at 9.

Perhaps the junior guard/forward was being serious about not spending much time pondering the fact that a 13-2 national powerhouse is headed right for the 7-8 Pirates. But interim ECU head coach Michael Perry said that is not surprising when it comes to Barkley.

“He never does,” Perry said at the team’s final practice before taking on the American Athletic Conference’s newest member for the first time in Minges Coliseum. “One thing you have to appreciate about Kentrell Barkley is that it doesn’t matter if the Los Angeles Lakers or the Cleveland Cavaliers are coming in here, Kentrell Barkley’s gonna bring it. I’d like to have all our guys feel that way.”

Barkley, third on the team in scoring with a 12.4 points per game average behind senior B.J. Tyson (15.7) and junior Isaac Fleming (12.9), wasn’t exactly doubting how good the Shockers are either. Wichita’s lone losses are to Notre Dame and now-ninth ranked Oklahoma, and its wins include Oklahoma State and Baylor (No. 16 at the time).

“I know we’re playing Wichita State, and we watched them on film and they’re good at all spots,” said Barkley, adding that Wichita plays with a lot of movement, a lot of screens and a lot of 3-pointers.

The biggest crowd of the year to date is expected and that fact is not lost on the Pirates, especially freshman Dimitri Spasojevic, who said he previously played in front of 10,000 people in Greece in a European championship game.

“I’m excited to see people here, to see a full gym,” said Spasojevic, who pitches in 7.0 points from his forward position along with 7.9 from freshman guard Shawn Williams. “(Teammates) tell me they go crazy in there when we have a lot of people.”

That crowd could be vital in keeping the Pirates in the hunt against coach Gregg Marshall and the Shockers, who boast a true weapon in Landry Shamet, who scores at a 16.1 average thanks to hammering down 39 3-pointers. Behind him, Shaquille Morris (12.2 ppg.), Conner Frankamp (11.8, 29 3s) and Darral Willis Jr. (11.3) are worthy complements.

“On any given night, somebody (different) can lead them in scoring, from one through 10,” Perry said. “They don’t go into a game needing one particular guy to carry the load offensively. It’s fun to watch, but not a very good thing to be preparing for.

“Obviously, when you have the No. 5 team in the country, that says a lot in and of itself. Tremendous talent, well coached and they play extremely hard. One of the best teams to come into our arena since I’ve been around.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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