It’s going to be unique experience for ECU coach Jeff Lebo when he leads his Pirates (15-10, 6-6 Conference USA) into Dallas Saturday for a matchup with the Southern Methodist Mustangs (13-13, 3-8 Conference USA). Hall of fame basketball coach Larry Brown, who coached Lebo in the NBA with the Spurs in 1990 and is a fellow North Carolina Chapel-Hill alumnus, is in his first season at the helm at SMU.
“It will be weird,” said Lebo. “He’s a teacher. Having a chance to play for him, and being at his practices, I know how much he loves this game.”
The Pirates opened its season-long three game road trip Wednesday with its first ever road win at Tulsa, 72-63. Behind Maurice Kemp’s game high 23 points and Akeem Richmond’s five 3’s—and 17 points—ECU was able to rally from behind to defeat the Golden Hurricane and move into the No. 5 spot in the Conference USA Standings.
Southern Methodist has had a week of rest following its 78-67 loss at Tulane last Saturday. The Mustangs have lost in three of its last four outings and dropped their last three games played at home inside Moody Coliseum.
SMU has three players averaging double-figures scoring, led by Jalen Jones. Jones, a 6-foot-6, 220 pound guard is shooting 51 percent from the field and averages a team-high 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. 6-foot-4 guard Nick Russell adds 14.1 points and a team-high 4.2 assists per game, while sophomore guard Ryan Manuel averages 12.2 points.
A key to Saturday’s game will be discipline and ball security. Anytime you play on the road, it’s always important to not allow the home team to get easy buckets on the fast break, especially with all of the talent the Mustangs possess in the back court. This key is even more important for SMU though. The Mustangs are eleventh in the conference in assist to turnover ratio, while ECU is ranked third in steals.
Discipline is the priority for the Pirates. They are the favorite to win the game, but if players have to sit, with an already depleted lineup due to injury, it could spell trouble for ECU.
The Pirates will have a week off before they close their three game road swing in Hattiesburg against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles March 2. ECU’s next home game is March 6, when the Tulane Green Wave comes to town.