UCF looks to extend dominance of East Carolina

NCAA Basketball

UCF looks to extend dominance of East Carolina

The UCF Knights, losers of five straight games and winless this calendar year, must be thrilled to see three letters up next on their schedule.

Those would be E-C-U.

The Knights have defeated the East Carolina Pirates nine straight times. ECU hasn’t defeated UCF since March of 2015.

Wednesday night’s American Athletic Conference game will be in Orlando, Fla., and the Knights (3-6, 1-5) are desperate for a win. Then again, the Pirates (7-4, 1-4) have their own three-game losing streak.

The most recent time either school won a game was Dec. 22, when East Carolina beat Tulane, and UCF handled Cincinnati.

Since then, it’s been misery for both programs, including five COVID postponements — three for UCF and two for East Carolina.

“It starts on the defensive end — that’s how you turn it around,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said after the Knights’ most recent loss, 78-65 to SMU on Saturday. “We’ve got to get stops.”

East Carolina, which had only eight scholarship players available in Sunday’s 80-53 loss to Memphis, was led by Tremont Robinson-White’s 15 points.

However, Pirates coach Joe Dooley tested positive for COVID and was unable to be with his team Sunday. Before this outbreak, he had never missed a game.

“We didn’t respond well to pressure,” Pirates associate head coach Steve Roccaforte said after the Memphis game.

Roccaforte was talking about the defensive pressure applied by Memphis. But he may have well been discussing the pressure of this COVID-impacted season on teams such as East Carolina and UCF.

Jayden Gardner leads ECU in scoring (15.7 points per game) and rebounds (7.9). East Carolina’s two other double-figure scorers are J.J. Miles (10.4), who has been out, and Brandon Suggs (10.1). Tristen Newton leads the Pirates in assists (4.3) and steals (1.4).

The Knights have talented players in Brandon Mahan, Darin Green, Darius Perry and Isaiah Adams. Mahan leads the team in scoring (14.7), 3-point shooting (42.9 percent) and free-throw percentage (91.2).

Green is averaging 12.3 points while shooting 40.8 percent on 3-pointers. Perry is averaging 12.2 points while making 89.5 percent from the foul line. And Adams, a true freshman, is averaging 11.6 points.

–Field Level Media

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