Game Day: UE-East Carolina

Evansville Aces (21-14) at East Carolina Pirates (21-12)
CollegeInsider.com Tournament Semifinal Round

Game Time: 4 p.m. Saturday

Location: Minges Coliseum in Greenville, N.C.

Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, watchcollegeinsider.com

Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)

Game Notes: Click here

Spread: UE opened -1.5 at OddsShark.com

UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Adam Wing, C Egidijus Mockevicius

East Carolina’s Probable Starters: G Miguel Paul, G Paris Campbell, F Maurice Kemp, F Robert Sampson, F Ty Armstrong

Series History: Saturday marks the third all-time meeting between between the Aces and Pirates, who split a home-and-home series during the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons.

The Other Semifinal: Northern Iowa tips off against Wright State at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner of UE-East Carolina plays Tuesday on the road against the winner of that game for the CIT championship.

Story Clippings:

March 30: CIT giving UE’s freshmen plenty of postseason experience
March 29: Aces will finish CIT on the road
March 29: ECU wants memorable Minges Coliseum finale
March 27: UE using team chemistry to advance in postseason
March 27: Pirates march on to CIT semifinals
March 26: Ryan shatters scoring record, helps UE to win over Canisius

Notable:

—Saturday’s game will be the 36th this season for UE. It’s the most the program has ever played, eclipsing the 33 played during the 1998-1999 season when the Aces went 23-10. Should UE win the CIT championship, it would also win 23 games this year.

—East Carolina’s program is in the midst of its first 20-win season and longest ever postseason run. There will be limited seating available at the Pirates’ Minges Coliseum for Saturday’s game, the last in the arena, as construction takes place nearby for a new facility.

—Both UE and East Carolina’s stars have risen to the occasion in the postseason. Aces senior Colt Ryan, now the school’s all-time leading scorer, has averaged 28.7 points in three CIT wins. The Pirates’ Maurice Kemp, a 6-foot-8 forward and the team’s leading scorer, has tallied at least 20 points in eight straight games.

—East Carolina’s other major stat stuffer is senior point guard Miguel Paul, who averages 12.8 points per game but has also tallied 219 assists — or seven a contest.

—Since scoring just 50 points in its MVC tournament loss to Indiana State, the Aces have averaged 84.7 points per game in three CIT contests. Meanwhile, East Carolina has won six straight games when holding its opponent to 69 points or less. The Pirates are, in all, 13-2 this year when limiting its foe to fewer than than 70 points.

—UE’s 7-1 stretch is impressive but not unprecedented under coach Marty Simmons. His 2008-2009 team started that season with the same record.

—The Aces’ 56-point second half against Canisius on Tuesday — 30 came from Ryan on a 39-point night for the senior — were the most scored in one half since Simmons’ team put up 58 against Norfolk State on Dec. 23, 2010, also in the second half.

—UE’s rebounding woes seem, at least for the most part, a thing of the past. Opponents posted a +5.2 rebounding margin on the Aces last year, but they’ve closed that gap to just -.02 this season.

Quotable:

UE coach Marty Simmons on what this run means for the program’s younger players: “From my standpoint, it’s been neat because from the disappointment of not getting into the NIT to now, guys are really excited about playing and coming to practice. I think from my standpoint, you’re really not going to see the true dividends until next year or even the year after for these guys. Playing in tournaments, when you lose you’re out, I think you can gain experience from that. You look at our conference tournament – we haven’t had a lot of success there. But our hope is we can use this as a confidence builder where when we are in those situations, we can look back at this.”

D.J. Balentine on contributions from first year players such as himself, Adam Wing and Egidijus Mockevicius: “I knew what we had coming in and that if we worked hard, we could contribute and help. But from an overall standpoint, I didn’t think we could do this well. Then I saw it when the season began and started rolling…Next year, when Colt leaves, I’m sure I’ll have to do a whole lot more scoring and take over a whole lot more, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Simmons on East Carolina: “When you’re in tournament play and you advance, obviously the competition continues to get better and better. They remind me a lot of Murray State in that they’re very long, they’re very athletic, and they challenge shots at the rim.”

Simmons scouts the Pirates’ top players: “(Maurice) Kemp is a 6-8 slashing, scoring, rebounding forward. He can get to the free throw line. He plays the three and the four. He’s got great ball handling skills – athletic. Then their point guard, (Miguel) Paul, is as quick and fast and again, probably as good as any point guard we’ve played. Not only can he score the ball, but he’s a great passer. I think he’s averaging maybe eight assists.”

Wing’s opinion of East Carolina: “In a film group (Thursday), coach (Jimmy) Elgas said they’re a lot like Murray State. So when I flash back to that, they’re going to have athletic guards and swing players. The main thing, I know, is they want to score the ball and can score the ball in bunches. We’ve got to make sure we’re locked in the entire game because we could be up 10 with four minutes to go, and they could make a little spurt there. Next thing you know, we’re down by two.”

Outlook: Like UE, which has won multiple postseason games for the first time since going Division I, East Carolina is in uncharted territory. The Pirates’ fan base should come out loud to support its first 20-win team, and East Carolina typically plays well at home. This is easily the Aces’ toughest matchup in the CIT.

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