East Carolina (11-6) at FIU (9-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: U.S. Century Bank Arena (5,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: ECU 6-3, FIU 5-3. Away Record: ECU 2-3, FIU 3-4. Neutral Record: ECU 3-0, FIU 1-2. Conference Record: ECU 0-2, FIU 1-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Led by Conference USA's top scorer, the East Carolina Pirates pull into U.S. Century Bank Arena for a clash with the FIU Panthers.
The Pirates have fallen on hard times recently with losses in four of their last five games, including an 0-2 start to conference play. They are still a solid 11-6 overall, although that features a 2-3 mark on the road. The good news is ECU will return home for its next two games, as it takes on Tulane and Southern Miss.
FIU has also been trending in reverse of late, with losses in five of its last six outings. The run of futility has dropped the Panthers to an even 9-9 on the season, with that mark including a 5-3 success rate at home and a 1-2 ledger against conference foes. They will host in-state rival FAU next Saturday, before hitting the road for four of their next six.
The Panthers are in their first season in Conference USA, and are facing the Pirates for the first time ever.
ECU was handed a 78-67 loss by FAU the last time out, as the team shot just 36.8 percent from the floor and faced scoring deficits from beyond the arc (30-24), in the paint (30-24) and off of turnovers (15-4). Akeem Richmond scored 20 points, knocking down 6-of-13 from 3-point range, in the losing effort.
Paced by Richmond, the Pirates have been the second-best scoring team in C-USA this season, netting 82.6 ppg and shooting 46.6 percent from the floor. Although their shooting percentage is just 75th nationally, the Pirates are 19th in the country in scoring. Richmond is the main cog for the unit, with the 6-foot guard netting a league-best 19.6 ppg and finishing in double figures in every game this season. Joining Richmond are Paris Campbell (12.8 ppg) and Caleb White (11.8 ppg). White is the more efficient scorer, netting 54 percent from the floor, while Campbell shoots just 37.8 percent.
Tymell Murphy scored a game-high 20 points in an otherwise dismal performance for FIU in its 52-36 loss to Old Dominion when it was last in action. The Panthers shot just 31 percent from the floor in the contest and turned the ball over 18 times.
FIU has been nowhere near as potent an offensive team as ECU. The Panthers are netting just 68.2 ppg on 44.3 percent shooting, ranking 13th in C-USA in scoring and eight in field goal percentage. Murphy (16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) has done his best to keep the Panthers competitive, shooting at an extremely efficient rate (.602). Rakeem Buckles (13.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg) teams with Murphy in the frontcourt, providing solid effort both in scoring and on the glass. In fact, Buckles is the top rebounder in the conference. Dennis Mavin (10.9 ppg) is the leading scorer in the backcourt, although he is connecting on just 36.5 percent of his total shots.
Although ECU has not been an overly successful road team this season, it's offensive acumen gives it a chance in most games. Expect Richmond and company to find a way to shoot their way past FIU.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 77, FIU 73
01/18 10:22:00 ET