East Carolina's Akeem Richmond, right, makes a 3-pointer over Southern Miss' Jeremiah Eason Saturday night at Minges Coliseum. (Scott Davis/The Daily Reflector)

East Carolina's Akeem Richmond, right, makes a 3-pointer over Southern Miss' Jeremiah Eason Saturday night at Minges Coliseum. (Scott Davis/The Daily Reflector)

Shooting woes hurting Pirates

By Tony Castleberry

Greenville Reflector

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It might not be what East Carolina fans want to hear, but Pirate senior Akeem Richmond bluntly told it like it was after last Saturday’s home loss to Southern Miss.

“If we’re not shooting the ball well, you can go ahead and count us out,” Richmond said in the Minges Coliseum press room after ECU dropped its fifth consecutive game to start Conference USA play. “That’s one of our strengths and if we’re not knocking down shots, we’re not playing well.”

The 60-46 setback against the Golden Eagles marked the fourth consecutive game the Pirates (11-9, 0-5 C-USA) scored a season low in points. ECU also shot a season-low 32.0 percent (16-of-50) from the field, including just 20.8 percent (5-of-24) after halftime.

With the Pirates struggling to make shots, Southern Miss took control of the game with an 18-1 run and outscored ECU 37-16 in the final 20 minutes.

Pirates freshman Caleb White’s individual performance mirrored that of East Carolina’s team. White scored 13 points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second and he said the Eagles’ defense disrupted the rhythm he had going before halftime.

“They altered where I was catching the ball and when during
possessions I’d catch it,” White said. “They would have a guy in there early in a possession or later in a possession, so when I would think about moving is exactly when it would be open. They got better (at contesting shots) as well, running bodies at me quicker.

“I still have to hit in the second half.”

Even if Richmond — who leads C-USA in scoring (18.8 points per game) — and White (12.2 ppg) both have it going offensively, ECU needs at least one other player to help the scoring cause. Paris Roberts-Campbell, a junior guard, is the team’s second leading scorer (13.2 ppg), but has been inconsistent in January and has exceeded his average only twice.

Production from the Pirates point guards has been even more disappointing. Starter Antonio Robinson, a junior college transfer, has been held scoreless in three of his five league games and sophomore backup Prince Williams has not reached double-figure scoring in a month. Prior to the drought, Williams put together a four-game stretch during which he averaged 16.0 points per outing.

“When we lost a lot of guys (due to players leaving and injury, I wondered), how are we going to score?” fourth-year ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “That was a big question that I had. Early, we found a way to mask it, but after 18, 19 games (and) the scouting gets out, it’s a little bit harder for us to hide. It’s been a problem for us here as we’ve gotten later in the season. Who’s going to be our second, third, fourth, consistent guy that can score the ball? It’s been challenging for us there.”

The guards were not solely to blame for the lack of offense against Southern Miss. Starting forward Mike Zangari and freshman reserve Brandan Stith combined to go 0-of-2 from the field for zero points.