WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The UNCW and East Carolina's men's basketball teams will play each other for the 65th time Thursday night and ECU will have a new coach for the game after Jeff Lebo announced his resignation on Wednesday afternoon.
Lebo, who was in his eighth season with the Pirates, missed the final 14 games of the 2016-17 season following hip replacement surgery and ECU was off to a 2-4 start this season, including home losses to Central Connecticut State and North Carolina A&T. Those teams combined for just nine wins last season.
Assistant coach Michael Perry, who filled in for Lebo after his surgery last season, has taken over again on an interim basis.
Both teams enter tonight's 8 o'clock tip-off in ECU's Minges Coliseum coming off losses. The Seahawks (2-3) lost to Valparaiso 79-70 on Saturday at the Savannah Invitational, and the Pirates dropped an 87-81 decision in Greenville against NC A&T on Sunday.
UNCW first-year head coach C.B. McGrath got a sneak peek at the Pirates, and vice versa, during a preseason scrimmage in early November at North Carolina's Dean E. Smith Center.
Although UNCW leads all Colonial Athletic Conference teams in scoring with an 84.4 points per game average and 6-foot-7 Seahawk junior Devontae Cacok leads all Division I players in rebounds (13.2 per game), McGrath said his club is not close to being fully formed yet.
"We haven't fixed all of our defensive issues," McGrath told uncwsports.com. "We're still a work in progress. It's going to be a process. Our guys are going from a full-court, pressing team with different kinds of concepts to a half-court, man-to-man defense. We're still teaching a lot of stuff. … They're still learning."
Jordon Talley, a 6-1 senior point guard, earned all-tournament team honors in Savannah and leads UNCW in scoring with a 17.6 points per game average. He is also tied for fifth in the country in assists, averaging 8.0 per game.
Cacok scores at a 16.2 ppg clip and has four double-doubles in five games.
Senior B.J. Tyson (6-3) and junior Kentrell Barkley (6-5) pace the Pirates in scoring with averages of 14.5 and 13.2 ppg, respectively. Junior point guard Isaac Fleming scores an average of 12.0 points per game and leads the team in assists (4.8 per game).
Dimitri Spasojevic, a 6-8 freshman, and Jabari Craig, a 6-10 senior, each average a team-high 6.0 rebounds per contest for the Pirates.
The Seahawks lead the all-time series with ECU 36-28 and have won three of the last four meetings. The Pirates are 19-13 against UNCW in Minges, including a 78-73 victory in the last matchup in Greenville on Dec. 16, 2015.