GREENVILLE — Even though East Carolina had
trailed for most of the game and Houston led by nine points with just
over eight minutes left on Wednesday night in Williams Arena at Minges
Coliseum, there was a sense that the Pirates would make a run.
It didn't take a fortune teller to figure
that out. ECU had trailed Central Florida by 17 points with under 12
minutes left on Saturday before coming back for
an 88-85 win in overtime on
Corvonn Gaines' 3-point buzzer beater.
continues below the following picture.
Richmond draws a foul driving to the basket. The junior
guard scored 14 points, all in the second half. [W.A. Myatt photo]
Rallies are the Pirates' method of
operation at the moment. Some 3-pointers to ignite the fans and ECU is
good to go.
"We talked about staying poised and not
panicking, just executing the game plan," said Maurice Kemp, who had a
career high 30 points along with nine rebounds.
Practice is starting to produce results
for the slender transfer from Miami Dade.
"I felt pretty good," said Kemp, a
6-foot-8 senior. "I got a lot of shots up over the whole (holiday)
break. I feel like it's starting to pay off. The Christmas break is when
you get the most work in, really."
With 15:46 left to play, Kemp was
9-for-15 from the floor and the rest of his teammates were a combined
"I just wanted to help the team out any
way I could," Kemp said. "Whether it's defense, rebounding, whatever my
teammates need from me. Tonight it happened to be scoring."
Kemp finished 13 of 20 from the field.
The Pirates were 0-for-13 behind the
arc before Paris Roberts-Campbell finally connected with 13 minutes to
go. ECU's dominance didn't develop immediately as the Cougars maintained
sufficient poise to lead 69-60 with 8:18 to play on a 3-pointer by
Danuel House, who paced Houston with 22 points.
Miguel Paul, who had struggled mightily
to find his shooting range, was successful from 3-point land with 8:02
to go and the crowd of 5,087 begin to turn up the volume.
Two free throws by House with 7:24 left
gave the Cougars a 71-65 lead.
Akeem Richmond, who Kemp calls "the
microwave," hit a three off an assist from Paul, and that sparked a
decisive 24-7 run over the rest of the game.
Another three from Richmond, who had
all 14 of his points in seven second half minutes, put ECU ahead to stay
at 79-76 with 3:44 to go. The Pirates closed the game by outscoring
Houston (12-4, 1-2 Conference USA) by a 13-2 margin.
"I just came in and shot the ball with
a lot of confidence," said Richmond, a Rhode Island transfer. "I got a
ton of shots up before the game. I think that helped out a lot. We did
an excellent job of sharing the basketball."
Paul had 16 points but was just
4-for-17 from the field. He made 6-of-7 at the free throw line and also
had eight assists while making just two of ECU's five turnovers.
Ty Armstrong had nine points and 12
rebounds. Sampson finished with eight points, blocked two shots and
contributed three of the Pirates' 11 steals.
Roberts-Campbell had six points,
Shamarr Bowden had four points and freshman Marshall Guilmette added two
Cougars coach James Dickey had watched
tape of the UCF game and although his team played with surgical
precision most of the way, he knew the Pirates could transform into
supermen at the drop of a three.
"(East Carolina) had 38 points where we
assisted," Dickey said. "They had 19 off turnovers and 19 off offensive
rebounds. They're too good to help."
ECU coach Jeff Lebo would probably
prefer more consistent play for 40 minutes but the former North Carolina
sharpshooter knows winning is the bottom line. His club is 11-5 overall
and 2-1 in league play with a game at Marshall at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"It was another exciting game here,"
Lebo said. "Kind of more of the same stuff — get down and struggle
offensively shooting the ball. ... Luckily our offense showed up in the
second half in a lot of different areas. Kemp was big, obviously. ...
Akeem got going."
A faster start might not be as exciting
but at least ECU is thinking in those terms.
"We were actually joking about it in
the locker room," Kemp said. "Imagine if we could get two halves like
the second. That's our goal. If we could play the first half like we do
the second half we could be really special."
East Carolina 89, Houston 78
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013
Facility: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum
Records: ECU 11-5, 2-1 C-USA; UH 12-4, 1-2
SCORE BY PERIODS