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Pirates hit the road for two-game swing

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East Carolina guard Shawn Williams (55) looks over to head coach Joe Dooley as the Pirates break a timeout during their 73-71 victory over Cincinnati on Jan. 5, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 10, 2019

East Carolina’s basketball team left for Memphis on Wednesday and will not return to Greenville until after playing Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

Facing the Memphis Tigers (9-6, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) tonight and then UCF on Sunday provides another challenging setup for ECU, which is trying to keep pace in the deep AAC ranks and helped its cause last Saturday when it upset Cincinnati, 73-71, in Minges Coliseum. A 9-of-22 mark from 3-point range, led by Shawn Williams going 4-of-10 and K.J. Davis hitting 3-for-5, paced the Pirates (8-6, 1-1).

ECU is 0-4 in road games this season, and the next two are against teams with a combined 21-8 overall record. Both contests will be broadcast on ESPNU, beginning with tonight’s 9 p.m. tip-off in Memphis.

“It’s a hard road trip because Memphis and UCF are really good,” first-year Pirate coach Joe Dooley said. “These teams all play differently, so we are just trying to maximize the amount of time and work on some things that we have to get better at. ... Pace will be important for us (versus Memphis).”

The Tigers lead the all-time series 18-4, but ECU is 3-3 in its last six outings versus UM. The teams split last season, with the Pirates winning 88-85 in overtime in Greenville.

Traveling to Memphis means playing in the FedEx Forum, which also is home to the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. 

UM, which is 6-2 in its last eight games and features 6-foot-8 senior Kyvon Davenport at 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, is 8-1 at home this year. Its most recent outing was a 90-77 loss at Houston.

“They are really fast and athletic, but also experienced with five seniors,” Dooley said of the Tigers, who also are led by a first-year coach in former Memphis and NBA star Penny Hardaway. “They also have been very good at home. I told our guys that it’s a privilege and we’ll get to see some things and it’s a great opportunity to play in an NBA arena.”

Davenport scored 30 points in Memphis’ first game of the season, and he totaled 31 points and 11 boards in a 102-92 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 15.

His presence will put pressure once again on ECU freshman Jayden Gardner, who is among the league leaders in the AAC in scoring (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.9). He had 10 rebounds by halftime against the Bearcats, finishing the contest with 13 points and 12 boards.

Davis came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points, upping his season scoring average to 9.2 per outing. Williams is at 13.8 points per game.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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