GAME NOTES: The Greensboro Coliseum will host an instate battle on Tuesday when the East Carolina Pirates take on the UNC Greensboro Spartans in a non- conference matchup.
East Carolina improved to 1-0 on the young season on Friday night with a 97-51 rout of Division II foe North Carolina Wesleyan. The Pirates will be looking for their second consecutive 2-0 start under fourth-year head coach Jeff Lebo, who guided the team to a school record 23 victories last season after it finished under the .500 mark in each campaign from 1998-2012. Lebo's squad made history in 2012-13 as it won the CIT Championship, which gave the program its first postseason tournament title. East Carolina will struggle duplicating those results as it lost Maurice Kemp, Miguel Paul and Robert Sampson, who all played a vital role in the team's success.
The Spartans are also 1-0 thanks to their 82-74 decision over High Point on Friday in a contest they led for all but 21 seconds. The win marked the first successful season opener for the program since the 2007-08 campaign. Coach Wes Miller also has plenty of holes to fill after losing all of his double-digit scorers from last season's unit that went 9-22 with only six wins in Southern Conference play. UNC Greensboro appeared to have some offensive weapons versus High Point as it shot 46.4 percent from the floor and added 25 points at the free-throw line.
This will be the 12th time in history as the Pirates square off with UNC Greensboro. East Carolina holds a 9-2 all-time series lead after its narrow, 76-73, victory over the Spartans at Minges Coliseum in Greenville last season.
ECU will hope senior guard Akeem Richmond can step into a leadership role after serving as a contributor as a junior. Richmond led the Conference USA with an average of three makes from beyond the arc per game en route to a school record total of 105 connections from behind the 3-point line on 42 percent efficiency. The senior guard netted 10.3 ppg in 2012-13, which made him the leading scorer among returners entering his final tour. Richmond went 5-of-10 from the floor to post 15 points in 23 minutes of action versus North Carolina Wesleyan. In his first collegiate game, freshman forward Brandan Stith registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five steals off the bench. Sophomore guard Paris Roberts-Campbell paced the Pirates in the season opener as he scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half. Although ECU sank 10-of-24 from beyond the arc in the contest, it needs to improve upon its free-throw shooting after converting only 11 of-22 at the charity stripe on Friday.
UNCG leaned heavily on its frontcourt duo of Kayel Locke and Kyle Cain on Friday, with both forwards scoring 21 points to tie for the team-high. Locke also finished with nine rebounds, while freshman guard Tyrone Outlaw scored 14 points and collected nine boards in his collegiate debut. Outlaw was not the only rookie to impress as Tevon Saddler chipped in 10 points, six rebounds and four assists versus High Point. Saddler was one of Miller's key additions as he was named the Player of the Year in the state of Maryland as a high school senior.
A victory will not come easy for either side as these North Carolina schools are very evenly matched. The Spartans have not been too successful under Miller so far, but the 30-year old has had to learn on the job since becoming the youngest head coach at the Division I level when he was hired during the 2011-12 season. UNCG could gain some ground in the all-time series, but it will need to contain ECU's 3-point shooters, primarily Richmond, for that to happen.
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