Norfolk State (2-1) at East Carolina (3-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, November 18, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) -- Durham, North Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: Norfolk St. 2-0, East Carolina 2-0. Away Record: Norfolk St. 0-1, East Carolina 1-0. Neutral Record: Norfolk St. 0-0, East Carolina 0-0. Conference Record: Norfolk St. 0-0, East Carolina 0-0. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates and Norfolk State Spartans will square off in opening round action of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night.
The winner will move on to face either UNC-Asheville or host Duke in second- round action on Tuesday.
Jeff Lebo's Pirates come into this event with a perfect 3-0 mark to start the season. ECU has won a pair of home games against NC Wesleyan (97-51) and Chowan (95-45), sandwiched around a narrow road win at UNC Greensboro (85-84). The Pirates have now won eight straight games dating back to last season, the second-longest active streak in the nation (Louisville - 19). The Pirates are in their final season in Conference USA before moving to the American Athletic Conference next year.
Robert Jones' Spartans should not be overlooked, as they come into this contest at 2-1 on the young season. Norfolk State dropped its season opener on the road at Texas Southern (95-83), but bounced back with a pair of home victories over Newberry College (115-85) and Virginia Union (92-84). The Spartans went 21-12 last season and a perfect 16-0 in the MEAC, en route to an NIT bid.
East Carolina won the only previous meeting between these two teams, a 74-63 decision last season at Minges Coliseum.
It wasn't easy, but Norfolk State went on a 14-4 run to close out its game against Virginia Union and take an eight-point decision. The Spartans watched a 16-point second-half lead evaporate before having to rally down the stretch. Malcolm Hawkins had a strong game, going 8-of-16 from the floor for a game- high 25 points. Rashid Gaston added a double-double with 17 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, while Pendarvis Williams just missed one of his own with 16 points and nine boards.
The Spartans as a whole are averaging a gaudy 96.7 ppg, on .523 shooting, but are giving up similar numbers (91.3 ppg on .482 efficiency). The trio of Hawkins, Williams and Gaston has been highly productive on the offensive end for Norfolk State this season. Hawkins is shooting 50 percent from the floor overall and behind the arc, en route to a team-high 23.7 ppg. Williams is shooting a better .545 from the field and is a close second in the scoring column at 21.0 ppg. Gaston is averaging a near double-double with 15.0 points and team-high 9.3 rebounds per outing.
It was a balanced effort last time out for ECU, as six players scored in double figures in the 50-point romp over Chowan. Akeem Richmond poured in a game-high 15 points, followed closely by Caleb White's 13 points. Petar Torlak, Greg Alexander and Brandan Stith all tallied 11, while Marshall Guilmette finished things off with 10. East Carolina dominated play on the boards, outrebounding Chowan 59-27 and held its foe to a mere .266 shooting performance.
ECU has scored over 80 points in each game this season and enters this event at a hefty 92.0 ppg. In addition, the Pirates are enjoying a +13.0 rebounding margin and forcing 15.3 turnovers per game, while committing just 8.7. Richmond leads five Pirates in double-figure scoring at 16.3 ppg. Paris Campbell is next in line at 14.0 ppg, followed by White (13.0 ppg), Stith (11.0 ppg) and Torlak (10.0 ppg).
The Spartans certainly have their share of scoring depth and that should make this contest interesting. However, ECU can match Norfolk State's offensive firepower and possesses more depth. Expect the Pirates to remain unbeaten on the yea.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 83, Norfolk State 74
11/18 10:33:32 ET