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Game Day Preview: UConn vs. East Carolina

UConn has a surprisingly tall task at East Carolina, where the Pirates are 11-3 at home so far this season.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

East Carolina Pirates: 12-15 (5-9 American)

Preview: With just four games remaining in the regular season, the UConn Huskies look to build momentum tonight in Greenville, North Carolina. Though East Carolina has certainly had a tough season, they have been a solid team at home during AAC play, going 5-2 with wins against Memphis and Cincinnati in Minges Coliseum.

Despite a 10-point deficit late in the first half during the first meeting at Gampel between these two teams, the Huskies rode two separate 17-0 runs en route to a 65-52 win on February 4th. Ryan Boatright led all scorers with 23 points on 7-10 shooting from the three point line. Daniel Hamilton filled up the stat sheet with 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, and Terrance Samuel went 4-6 from the field to go along with 5 assists. The Pirates kept it the close in the first half with 8 three-pointers but could not sustain the hot shooting, making just 2 of 8 the rest of the way.

ECU, much like American Conference rivals Tulsa and Tulane, rely heavily on a trio guards-- each of whom average between 12 and 13 points per game. Terry Whisnant and Caleb White 300 threes this season and making them at a rate of 40%. Freshman BJ Tyson is the third guard of the trio and torched UConn in their last meeting on 8-11 shooting for 20 points. The key on the defensive end for UConn is to limit the Pirates' three point attempts with tight perimeter defense and funnel ECU's guards into Amida Brimah in the post. As always, it is crucial that Brimah stays out of foul trouble, something that he was unable to do in the first meeting.

UConn is currently sitting as the 6-seed in the AAC tournament which means they would need to win four games in a row in order to make the NCAA tournament. The Huskies are in great position to move up and receive a first round bye as they are just one game back in the loss column of Temple, who currently occupy the 3-seed.

A win in Carolina is critical if the Huskies want to remain in position for a first round bye, especially with SMU coming to Hartford on Sunday. I suspect they will behind the rising confidence of Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah, two players who are finally giving Ryan Boatright the help he's been begging for all season, though it won't be easy against these pesky Pirates.

Prediction: UConn 60 ECU 59