Pirates return home to host Blazers

ECU looks to get back in the win column against a UAB team they have already beaten once this season.

After splitting a two game road trip, the Pirates will play their first game back at Minges Coliseum Wednesday night since falling 75-68 to the Memphis Tigers on Jan. 30. In its most recent outing, ECU (13-9, 4-5 Conference USA) fell 83-73 to the UCF Knights in Orlando behind a triple double by Isaiah Sykes (20 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists).

The Pirates will face the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (11-13, 3-6 Conference USA) for the second time this season. In the school's first meeting on Jan. 23, ECU snapped its five game road losing streak with a 91-85 win in Birmingham. Six Pirates scored in double-figures, led by Ty Armstrong's 18 points.

Blazers forward Rod Rucker had 20 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs. Rucker, a 6-foot-5 junior, is the focal point of UAB team offensively—averaging 14 points and 8.2 boards per game this season.

"Rucker is terrific," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. "He's as strong as an ox. He presents problems with his quickness and his ability to put the ball on the floor."

Maurice Kemp had a team-high 24 points and 11 rebounds to keep the Pirates in the game Saturday against UCF. Kemp, who is Conference USA's leading-scorer, averages 18.1 points along with 8 rebounds per game. But after putting up impressive numbers on the road trip, he admits it's nice to return home in front of the Pirate Nation at Minges Coliseum.

"It's been a while since we had a home game. We're all really excited about it. Playing in front of our crowd, they always come out very supportive and we want to put on a good show for them," said Kemp.

UAB is amidst a season with a number of highs and lows. The Blazers dropped six consecutive games in the month of January, but now have won their three of their last four—including Saturday night, 75-61, against the Marshall Thundering Herd.

UAB ranks in the top-three in steals, assists, and free-throw percentage, but enter Wednesday night's action with a 2-8 road record this season.

With seven games left on the regular season slate, the Pirates are one of the team's jockeying for Conference USA tournament positioning, with a first round bye still in reach. Tied for fifth in the league standings (due to UCF's ineligibly) with Tulane,ECU sits a half-game back of Tulsa (5-5 Conference USA), and two games back of UTEP (6-3 Conference USA) for the No. 4 and 3 spots respectively. The top four teams would receive first round byes in the tournament.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from Minges Coliseum. You can listen to Jeff Charles—who will be making his return behind the microphone to call home basketball games after being diagnosed with colon cancer in December—on the Pirate IMG Sports Network.

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