GREENVILLE — East Carolina's basketball
team had internal and external motivation in its Conference USA matchup
with Tulane on Wednesday night. From an internal standpoint, the Pirates
realized they had an opportunity to secure an opening round bye in next
week's Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa, a feat never before
accomplished by ECU in 11 previous seasons in the league.
Apart from taking a shortcut into the
C-USA quarterfinals on Thursday, there also was the matter of putting
the program's best foot forward for special company.
Jeff Compher and his wife,
Cathy, were introduced to the crowd of 4,461 in Williams Arena at Minges
Coliseum with 15:51 left in the first half. Just hours earlier in the
Murphy Center, Compher
had been presented as ECU's soon-to-be athletic
director after putting together a compelling body of work
over the last five years at Northern Illinois.
Compher will assume his
duties at East Carolina on May 1. Terry Holland, who has served as AD
since 2004, will assist Compher's transition and become athletic
director emeritus through the remainder of his contract, which
reportedly runs through the end of 2014.
Although ECU trailed 10-3
as Compher acknowledged the gathering from the playing floor, the
Pirates were able to subdue the quick and determined Green Wave, 88-85,
to lock down the bye and keep the buzz positive on Compher's first day
among Pirate Nation.
Chancellor Steve Ballard
sat on the first row, opposite the Tulane bench, near Compher when the
incoming AD wasn't circulating in the arena, and Ballard seemed to be
enjoying himself as much as anyone. Holland was stationed at his
customary post near the visitors' exit on the lower level. His hiring of
Lebo after ECU went 10-21 in 2009-10 looked as shrewd as ever as ECU
improved to 17-11 overall and 8-7 in C-USA.
Lebo said he only had a
chance to say hello to Compher during halftime on game day. The Pirate
coach was pretty busy fending off the Green Wave (18-12, 6-9 C-USA), who
led 82-81 after a drive by N.C. State transfer Josh Davis with 2:10 to
go. Those were the last of 23 points for Davis, who also snatched 16
The Pirates astutely
isolated Akeem Richmond, screening his defender to set up the go-ahead
basket after he left Richmond to double team the ball. Robert Sampson
fed Richmond for a 3-pointer and an 84-82 lead with 1:58 remaining.
Sampson also claimed the ensuing defensive rebound. ECU put the game
away as Richmond and Miguel Paul each made a pair of free throws in the
final 18 seconds. ECU noticeably picked up the defensive intensity of
its man-to-man down the stretch.
Richmond set a new school
record for 3-pointers in a season with a trey with 12:37 left to play.
He now has connected 87 times from behind the arc, surpassing the
previous mark of 85 set by Sam Hinnant in 2008-09.
From Tulane's 38-22
rebounding advantage and 54.5 percent field goal shooting, it was a
small miracle that ECU was able to match its previous league record
total of eight wins set in Lebo's first season in 2010-11.
"It was an offensive game,
obviously," Lebo said in retrospect. "I'm really proud of our group to
find a way to win. Tough game. Tulane played awfully well. They shot it
really well. They spread us out, beat us off the bounce, hurt us off the
glass. ... It looked like we were going to have to outscore them."
Maurice Kemp obliged with
29 points and nine rebounds for ECU. Richmond had 21 points. Paris
Roberts-Campbell found his touch for five threes and 15 points. Paul,
who was scoreless in the first half, came on to score 13 points and
handed out 11 assists. Sampson had seven rebounds. Roberts-Campbell had
five assists and Kemp had four.
"Twenty-four assists to
eight turnovers — I'll take that every game," Lebo said.
Story continues after
the following picture.
ECU's Maurice Kemp drives in the first half
against Tulane. The senior forward, C-USA's leading scorer,
reinforced his bid for first-team all-conference honors with 29 points
and 9 rebounds. (W.A. Myatt photo)
Ricky Tarrant had 20
points for Tulane. Jordan Callahan scored 17 in the loss. Louis Dabney
had 11 points in 13 second-half minutes, a performance Kemp said he
would hear about from the coaches.
"I couldn't stay in front
of him," the 6-foot-8 Kemp said of the 6-3 Dabney.
"He wasn't even in the
scouting report," Lebo said. "He was crushing Kemp."
Tulane coach Ed Conroy
said the two programs brought out the best in one another, a good thing
for the Pirates, who needed to be at their best given the special set of
ECU will face another
green machine at 5 p.m. on Saturday as Marshall comes to town. The
thumped the Pirates 77-56 on Jan.19.
At least Kemp probably
won't have to guard a smaller man. He and Paul can help set a program
record for C-USA wins on their Senior Night.
"They're bigger than
almost any team in the country," Lebo said of Marshall (13-17, 6-9). "I
know their last game (Tuesday night at home) was Senior Night but they
started 6-5, 6-9, 6-9, 6-10 and 6-8 ... men. They played a lot of zone.
... They lost at Southern Miss by 56 (102-46, Jan. 23). They played
Southern Miss at home and beat them by four (88-84, Tuesday night). In
basketball, you never know what's going to happen."
East Carolina 88, Marshall 85
Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013
Facility: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum
Records: ECU 17-11, 8-7 C-USA; TU
SCORE BY PERIODS