In the last pregame, I said that if Duke won, they would face the winner of East Carolina v Norfolk State. So, today at 6 PM, Duke will face off against the Pirates of East Carolina after their 76-74 victory last night at the hands of Norfolk State. The 4-0 Pirates will face the 3-1 Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor and here is a breakdown of the East Carolina rotation.
The first game East Carolina played was a laugher against the North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops where they came out with the 97-51 victory. The starting lineup was Paris Roberts-Campbell (6-3 junior), Akeem Richmond (6-0 senior), Prince Williams (6-5 sophomore), Michael Zangari (6-9 sophomore), and Marshall Guilmette (6-10 sophomore). In this one, the Pirates were led by Roberts-Campbell who had 21 points and Akeem Richmond was right behind him with 15. The bench was a solid contributor as well, especially Brandon Stith, a 6-7 freshmen from Lawrenceville, Virginia who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Caleb White also contributed off the bench with 13 points. Shooting over 56% from the field and around 42% from beyond the arc was a key point in the lopsided victory as well.
The next matchup against UNC Greensboro was a tightly contested one which saw East Carolina come back from being down 10 at halftime, to winning a down-to-the-wire game. Akeem Richmond was the leading scorer in this one with 19, including the game-winning free throw in the closing seconds. 5 players for East Carolina reached double figures, including Roberts-Campbell who had 16 points and 5 rebounds. A flaw was seen in this one, as Tevon Saddler, a 6-4 freshman from Baltimore, Maryland had himself an incredible game. He had 34 points on 10-15 shooting and knocked down 14 free throws. The shooting guard might be a place to attack against a poor defensive Pirates squad.
It was no matchup at all against the Chowan Braves as East Carolina alienated them by a final of 95-45. The Braves couldn’t hit a shot the entire game, going 17-64 (26.6%) from the field including 7-30 (23.3%) from the 3pt line. 6 Pirates scored in double figures and were led in the rebounding category by Stith who corralled 15 boards overall (6 offensive). This game was no contest at all for East Carolina, shown by their 50-point margin of victory.
In the first round of the Preseason NIT Tournament, East Carolina, as aforementioned, defeated the Norfolk State Spartans by a final of 76-74. Again, the offense was provided by Roberts-Campbell who poured in 22 to go along with his 4 assists. The two other main contributors were again Akeem Richmond (17 points) and Michael Zangari (16 points). Otherwise, no other Pirate reached double digits. The comeback victory provided East Carolina with the current task at hand; facing the #6 ranked Blue Devils in round 2 in Durham.
Tonight, Duke shouldn’t have much trouble with East Carolina due to the athleticism and defense. Last night, Duke’s defense was the best it had been all season with Quinn Cook holding Andrew Rowsey to only 1-7 shooting. The team defense too was absolutely amazing and Duke was Duke in the last one. To win, the Blue Devils must contain 3 people. They must contain Akeem Richmond and Paris Roberts-Campbell in the scoring aspect. Outside of scoring, neither do much in assists or rebounding so taking them out of the scoring category will be key. The other man is reserve Brandon Stith solely because of how he rebounds. He is almost averaging a double-double with 9.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. He had 15 rebounds against Chowan, 10 against UNC Welseyan, and 12 against Norfolk State. A small Duke team will have to try to contain him on the boards and if they can, I think Duke will have no problems with East Carolina. For defensive matchups, I would see the pairings as follows: Cook-Richmond, Sulaimon-Roberts-Campbell, Hood-Williams, Parker-Zangari, Jefferson-Guilmette. Duke should win this one easily and I would expect them to.