GAME NOTES: East Carolina, which is still in search of its first league win, will get another chance on Thursday night, as the Pirates tangle with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in Conference USA action at the Murphy Center.
The Pirates have dropped all five of their tilts in league play and seven of their past eight games overall. The long stretch of futility has muddied an otherwise strong ledger for the team in non-conference play. East Carolina, which is 11-9 overall, visits UAB next.
On the other side, Middle Tennessee has claimed victories in two of its last three games, including a 70-63 triumph over North Texas the last time out. The Blue Raiders are 13-7 overall and putting up a fight in league play (3-2) during their first year in C-USA. Next up, they will host fellow conference newcomer Old Dominion.
This is the first meeting between these teams as conference foes, and just the second overall. ECU won the other two matchups, they coming during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
Even though they were playing at home, the Pirates could not hold off Southern Miss in their most recent loss (60-46). East Carolina recorded only five field goals in the final 20 minutes and shot 32 percent from the floor in the game. Akeem Richmond finished with 18 points, all of which came from beyond the arc.
Richmond (18.8 ppg) is the leading scorer in the conference. He has connected on 38.7 percent of his shots from 3-point range this season as well as 84.7 percent from the free-throw line. His 18-point effort against Southern Miss marked the 10th time this season he has scored at least 18 points. Lending support for Richmond are Paris Campbell (13.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Caleb White (11.9 ppg). White finished with 13 points, but on 5-of-13 shooting against Southern Miss, while Campbell tallied nine points on 3-of-10 from the field. As a team, the Pirates are ranked second in the league in scoring (78.4 ppg).
Middle Tennessee got a big lift from its reserves to take down North Texas. Led by 13 points from Neiko Hunter, the Blue Raiders claimed a 36-23 scoring edge off the bench, as they shot 51 percent from the floor overall and netted 17 points off turnovers.
The Blue Raiders are sitting behind the Pirates in terms of offensive success, scoring 74.3 ppg and shooting 45.1 percent from the floor. However, they are a solid defensive squad, with teams managing just 66.9 ppg on 41.6 percent shooting against them. Shawn Jones (13.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) is the team's leader in scoring and on the glass, although he had only five points to go with nine boards against North Texas. Kerry Hammonds (12.3 ppg), Hunter (12.8 ppg) and Tweety Knight (8.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) also make their presence felt, especially Knight, who is fourth in the conference in assists.
Middle Tennessee is a disciplined team that will find a way to make Richmond uncomfortable in a hostile environment. As long as they hit enough shots themselves, the Blue Raiders should come out on top.
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