I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Top-10 Cougars present big challenge

Houston UConn Basketball

Houston's Armoni Brooks makes a basket as Connecticut's Sidney Wilson, right, defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

About a month removed from a 44-point win over East Carolina in basketball, No. 8-ranked Houston is in Greenville for a rematch against the Pirates in Minges Coliseum tonight.

Houston’s overall effectiveness, not to mention its 26-1 overall record and 13-1 mark in the American Athletic Conference, creates a daunting task for the Pirates (10-16, 3-11) and their hopes to pull a major upset. ECU also is looking for a boost from a home-court advantage for the game that will tip off at 7 p.m.

“They are Final Four caliber team, so it’s pretty cool that they are in our league,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said before Tuesday’s practice. “I think the one thing about it is when you look at their defensive stats and they are No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.2 percent). That’s an amazing stat, and they just have a lot of bodies to throw at you.”

The Cougars’ 94-50 win over ECU on Jan. 23 was highlighted by UH finishing 16-of-22 from 3-point range. ECU was 2-for-22.

“We have to get back in transition and eliminated the 3s,” said Pirate freshman and leading scorer Jayden Gardner (17.3 points per game), who had eight points and four rebounds in the first meeting against Houston. “They hit a bunch of 3s on us last game and basically got what they wanted. We’ll have to be able to execute on offense and be able to knock down open shots.”

The Cougars are No. 8 in The Associated Press Top 25 and ranked sixth in the coaches’ poll.

East Carolina has three wins all-time against AP ranked opponents, the last coming against No. 13 Marquette and Dwyane Wade in 2002.

The Pirates hosted No. 5 Wichita State last year and were overwhelmed in a 95-60 defeat. The attendance for that game was 5,539.

“If you want to come see a top-10 team and us try our heart out, then just come watch and support us,” Gardner said. “You know that we are going to give it all out on the court.”

Two of the AAC wins by the Pirates are against lowly Tulane, but the other was over NCAA tournament-bound Cincinnati in Minges on Jan. 5. The hosts hit nine of their 22 3-point attempts to upset the Bearcats, who are now second in the American standings and have a 23-4 overall record.

ECU is coming off an 85-81 road win against Tulane on Saturday, when Shawn Williams was 5-of-10 from the outside and scored 27 points. Williams, a sophomore guard and last year’s AAC rookie of the year, has scored at least 13 points in four straight games.

Eight different Cougars average at least 6.0 points per game, led by senior Corey Davis Jr. at 15.7 ppg. Fellow guard Armoni Brooks has been an outside threat all year, making 92 of his 232 3-point shots.

Brooks, who also is the team’s leading rebounder at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, was 5-of-7 from long distance and scored a game-high 17 points against the Pirates last month.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.


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