East Carolina (7-2) at Massachusetts (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 1:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (9,493) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: ECU 6-0, UMass 2-1. Away Record: ECU 1-2, UMass 2-0. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, UMass 2-2. Conference Record: ECU 0-0, UMass 0-0. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates look to begin a new winning streak when they visit the Mullins Center for non-conference action with the Massachusetts Minutemen.
ECU clipped Gardner-Webb by two points on Tuesday to improve to 7-2 on the season. The Pirates began the season with five consecutive victories before dropping a 76-64 decision at Charlotte. They lost their next road game at North Carolina by just six points prior to Tuesday's victory. Coach Jeff Lebo has his team playing very well on the offensive end with a 78.1 point per game average on 45.3 percent shooting from the field. ECU is also limiting its opponents to 65.2 ppg with a field goal percentage of .401.
The Minutemen earned their third win in a row on Wednesday with an 85-76 triumph over Ohio University at home. Derek Kellogg's team is now 6-3 after journeying through a treacherous schedule that included Providence, NC State, Tennessee, and Miami-Florida. UMass is scoring 72.2 ppg despite being held to 40.3 percent shooting from the field including a 29.2 percent clip from 3- point range. Its opposition is generating 74.3 ppg on 42.4 percent field goal shooting.
This will be just the second meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. UMass earned a 63-58 win in Greenville on Dec. 6, 2011 to earn a 1-0 all-time series lead.
After leading by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Pirates found themselves in a battle late in the second period versus Gardner-Webb. ECU was unable to follow its first half performance in which it drained 57.7 percent of its field goal tries as it managed to make just 7-of-21 after the break. It also finished the contest 14-of-24 at the charity stripe. Maurice Kemp carried the team to the win by tallying 22 points and nine rebounds. The senior forward is producing a team-best 17.1 ppg to go along with 8.9 rpg. Point guard Miguel Paul is one of the key players as well with 12.1 points and4.7 assists per outing. Robert Sampson provides inside toughness and is the top rebounder for the Pirates with 9.4 rpg.
UMass produced a season-best scoring output of 85 points versus Ohio its last time out by draining 48.1 percent of its field goal attempts and 24-of-35 at the free throw line. Although the Minutemen were guilty of 20 turnovers, they managed to stay in front by limiting the Bobcats to just 10 free-throw attempts. Jesse Morgan exploded for a career-high 35 points, including a Mullins Center record 24 in the first half. Cady Lalanne registered a 12- point, 11-rebound double-double. Chaz Williams added nine points, eight assists, and three steals. Morgan is averaging a team-best 16.1 ppg and Williams (15.4 ppg, 7.1 apg) is a close second. Terrell Vinson is contributing 12.7 points and 5.3 board per outing for the Minutemen.
UMass is going to be very hard to beat if Morgan continues to light it up as that will allow Williams to concentrate on getting everyone involved instead of carrying the load offensively. The Pirates are not going to be an easy opponent to take down. ECU will need its sophomore shooting guard Paris Campbell to contain Morgan to make a road win possible.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 76, East Carolina 73
12/22 10:30:51 ET