Coaches always say that there are no nights off in college basketball, especially during conference play.
Just ask East Carolina's Jeff Lebo or Tulsa's Doug Wojcik's whose teams will face off Wednesday night at the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Tulsa. Their teams have combined to have 10 league games decided by five points or less. Lebo's Pirates are 2-2 in such games, while Wojcik's Golden Hurricane squad is 4-2.
Tulsa has had three games decided by one points and was victorious in its first two such contests before losing at UCF on Saturday night. ECU has also had three games determined by a single point this season and it too has won two of three.
"Tulsa is battled tested," Pirate coach Jeff Lebo said. "They've had several games come down to the last possession. They're a program that's won 20 games the last four years, so they are used to winning."
ECU and Tulsa are separated by a mere game in the Conference USA standings with the Pirates bringing a seventh-place 5-5 ledger into Wednesday night's contest, while the Golden Hurricane is 6-4 in the league tied with SMU for fifth.
The Pirates will play four of their remaining six C-USA games on the road. ECU is 2-2 on the road against its league rivals this year, which included a 12-point win at UCF and a three-point loss at Memphis. Their next road victory would match the program's most on the road in C-USA.
"We've got a really hard stretch to finish it out," Lebo said. "Five of our last six games are against the top five teams in the league. We're just trying to win a game. That's how we are approaching it and the next game is Tulsa."
Both teams are coming off losses Saturday. East Carolina fell behind by 27 points to Marshall midway through the second half before it staged a frantic rally to pull within five with 5 minutes to play. However the deficit proved too much to overcome and fell by 13, 76-68. Jontae Sherrod led ECU with 19 points, while Brock Young added C-USA season-high 18 points.
Sherrod is averaging a career-best 15.3 points per game and ranks among the league's top 10 in 3-point percentage, 3-pointers per game and free throw percentage. Despite going 1-for-6 from behind the arc Saturday, Sherrod is still shooting over 41 percent from 3 in conference play.
Tulsa had its three-game winning streak snapped at UCF, 58-57. The Hurricane made a big defensive stop in the final seconds after a UCF inbounds play, but Scottie Haralson's three-point attempt was just off the mark as time expired. Justin Hurtt led TU with 23 points.
Under first-year coach Jeff Lebo, the Pirates find themselves in an unfamiliar position, playing meaningful games in February. The Pirates have a winning record through 24 games for the first time since 2008 when they were also 13-11 at this point. East Carolina's next win would give the program its most C-USA victories in a season.
"It's always tough playing on the road, but we know if we stick together we will have the chance to come out with a win," senior Brock Young said. "We've got something more to play for."
The Pirates will look to end a six-game losing streak to the Hurricane, whom they haven't beaten since their first meeting as league rivals in 2006.