Following its upset win over fifth-ranked Houston on Wednesday, East Carolina will fly nearly halfway across the country to face red-hot Memphis, which has won five of its last six games which included a 27-point victory over the Pirates 13 days ago, on Saturday.
ECU was coming off a 15-day layoff when it took the court against the Tigers on Jan. 24, playing without its head coach and four scholarship players due to COVID-19 protocols. Memphis took advantage of the short-handed Pirates, shooting 50 percent from the floor, 44 percent outside the arc and winning the battle of boards by 10.
Defensively, the Tigers forced ECU into a terrible shooting night. The Pirates shot just over 29 percent from the field and 18 percent from 3, while committing 16 turnovers. Memphis led 49-18 at halftime.
ECU junior Tremont Robinson-White and Memphis freshman Moussa Cisse each had 15 points to lead his team.
Two more losses followed before the Pirates snapped their five-game skid with a monumental victory Wednesday night.
Jayden Gardner collected 21 points and 15 rebounds, Robinson-White added 17 points to help the Pirates taste victory for the first time since Dec. 22.
The Pirates drained 7-of-14 attempts from beyond the arc during the first half against Houston and 11-of-24 in the game after going a combined 13-of-60 outside the arc in their three previous games.
Gardner has posted a double-double in four of the last five games and ranks second in The American in scoring (17.4 pgg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg) entering play this week. J.J. Miles is averaging 10.5 points per game while Robinson-White and Brandon Suggs are each putting up 9.5 points per contest.
Over the past five games, Robinson-White has averaged 18.8 points and connected on 48.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (17 of 35).
ECU nearly pulled off an epic comeback against Memphis on the road last season, rallying from a 16-point second half deficit to tie the game at 69-all before suffering a 77-73 loss. Tristen Newton recorded his first double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Gardner had 16 and Bitumba Baruti added 14.
The Pirates have lost five in a row to the Tigers by an average of 13 points per game. Their last win in the series came at home on Feb. 3, 2018 and their last win at FedExForum was in 2016.
Landers Nolley II leads Memphis with 13.9 points while D.J. Jeffries has put up 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. The Tigers rank fourth in The American in scoring (73.1 ppg) and second in fewest points allowed (63.1 ppg), field goal percent defense (.390) and 3-point field goal percent defense (.280).
ECU is averaging 68.8 points per game and shooting 42.5 percent overall and 33.1 percent from 3.
From wire and staff reports