There are some parallels between the East Carolina basketball team’s trip last week to Tulsa and this one to play talented Memphis.
What was costly versus Tulsa last Wednesday for the Pirates was a 23-7 surge by the hosts to start the game. It was the first of a difficult three-game stretch for ECU in facing Tulsa, Cincinnati and Memphis. The latter team has lost three straight games but joins some other American Athletic Conference clubs with possible NCAA tournament aspirations.
“Part of it is on the coaches and part of it is on the players, because we’ve talked about being ready from the start,” ECU coach Joe Dooley said of slow starts. “With the Tulsa game, they were coming off a couple losses and needed to get back on track, so they came out with good energy. We needed to match, then we sort of found our footing. On Sunday, our start was horrific (versus Cincinnati) and then our guys found their footing a little bit after that.”
The Pirates shook off an 11-2 deficit during the opening minutes versus Cincy on Sunday in Minges Coliseum to rally and lead by eight points with 12:26 left in the game. The Bearcats, however, answered and won 67-60 in overtime for ECU to drop to 1-5 in its last six games.
ECU was aiming for its second straight upset over Cincinnati in Minges.
Pirate coach Joe Dooley said his team still had a spirited practice Monday, one day after the overtime defeat.
“Our guys had great attitude and energy, and we bounced back,” he said. “I thought they were focused. We went through the second half and watched the whole game and then moved on to Memphis, but I thought we had a real good practice.”
East Carolina (10-16, 4-9) at Memphis (17-8, 6-6), 7 p.m.
How to watch: CBS Sports Network.
Why to watch: The Pirates have five games remaining in the regular season and are trying to get past the 10-win mark they finished at each of the last two years. This is their only meeting scheduled against the Tigers, which means potentially only one matchup against Memphis 6-foot-9 freshman and NBA draft prospect Precious Achiuwa. He is Memphis’ leading scorer and posted a double-double in three of the last four games, including 22 points and 17 rebounds versus Cincinnati.
Matchup to watch: East Carolina guard J.J. Miles tweaked his ankle Sunday against the Bearcats and finished with 12 points thanks to 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. He is expected to play versus the Tigers.
“He’s fine and just did one of those deals where it’s actually worse when you do it compared to later,” Dooley said. “He practiced yesterday.”