Memphis looks to avenge last year's loss
Sophomore forward Tarik Black will have to contend with ECU’s Darius Morrow, who averages more than six rebounds per game. David Minkin
Fresh off a big non-conference victory over Xavier on Saturday, the Memphis Tigers will travel to Greenville, N.C., to take on the East Carolina Pirates tonight as they try to keep pace with Southern Miss and Tulsa in the race for the Conference USA title.
The last time the Pirates (12-10, 3-6 C-USA) played Memphis at home, they used a 13-0 second half run to break the game open and send the Tigers home with their second straight loss. The Tigers returned the favor with a 76-56 beatdown in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.
"They shocked us, the whole team," said sophomore guard Antonio Barton. "We took them for granted. We beat them in the first game so we thought we were going to come in and do the same thing. We weren't ready and they wanted it more than us, so they beat us."
Junior guard Miguel Paul and senior forward Darius Morrow lead the Pirates with 16 and 13.9 points per game respectively. Paul, a transfer from Missouri, also leads the conference with 5.5 assists per game.
"We've got to continue to stay focused and locked in," Pastner said. "Every game's tough. There are no gimmes. East Carolina kicked our butt last year at their place."
Memphis' recent improvement on the glass will be put to the test against an ECU frontcourt that averages 36 rebounds per game. Morrow and junior forward Maurice Kemp average over six rebounds each. They will have to contend with Memphis' Will Barton and Tarik Black, who average 8.3 and 4.9 boards per game.
The Pirates have won three straight after dropping the previous six. Memphis, on the other hand, is trying to get on another run after losing to Southern Miss a week ago.
Pastner said he has stressed not looking past the Pirates.
"We're going to get everybody's best shot," he said. "Guys who have never hit a three-pointer will hit a three-pointer. Guys who shoot below 60 percent from the free throw line will hit 7-of-8."
The Tigers will try to limit the Pirates' three-point shooting. Paul has hit 52-of-140 three-pointers this season and leads the team in attempts.
"These teams we've been playing, they've always got two or three guys who shoot threes," Barton said. "Our game plan is to take the three out of the game and make them beat us off the dribble."
Pastner said it will be important to come out of the gate strongly and not back down.
"We can't allow teams to hang around," he said. "We've got to play at a high level for 40 minutes and just continue to move forward."
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