GREENVILLE — Williams Arena at Minges
Coliseum has transformed into a sort of Never-Never Land during East
Carolina's four-game run to this point in the CollegeInsider.com
ECU's seniors never
lost their last game in the enabling environment and opponents never
played well for 40 minutes.
In the case of Evansville in the CIT
semifinals, the Aces never were really in the game.
Evansville (21-15), as folks were quick
to point out, beat Final Four-bound Wichita State twice this season.
Despite their purple uniforms, the
visitors looked as lost as Hansel and Gretel on Saturday evening.
The Pirates went ahead to stay on a
3-pointer by Miguel Paul just 23 seconds into the contest. When the
dismantling was finished, ECU had reserved itself a CIT final spot with
a thorough 81-58 win.
The Pirates will hit the road to
challenge Weber State Tuesday night in the championship game. The
Wildcats earned the right to host the final with a 59-56 semifinal win
at Northern Iowa Saturday night.
"It was fun," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo
of his team's thumping of Evansville. "That's the best we've played,
maybe all year.... We had a lot of energy. I thought defensively we were
alert and did a great job at all spots."
ECU (22-12) shot 55.4 percent for the
game while holding Evansville to 31.8 percent.
Maurice Kemp, Robert Sampson and Paul
each had double-doubles. Kemp had a game-high 20 points with some more
sensational dunks that elicited comparisons to his recent appearance on
ESPN's top plays. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
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Junior forward Ty Armstrong waits to check in for the Pirates. (Al Myatt
Paul scored 19 points and had 11
assists. Sampson continued to emerge as a force inside with 11 points
and 13 rebounds.
Ty Armstrong carved the Aces up in the
paint with the finesse of a pool hustler as he made 6-of-7 field goal
attempts on a 17-point night.
Paris Roberts-Campbell had seven points
but his most important work was on the defensive end as he limited
Evansville's all-time leading scorer, Colt Ryan, to 12 points, eight
below his average. The focus of the Aces' motion offense was to spring
Ryan for good looks, but it was hard for the 6-foot-5 senior to get
space with Roberts-Campbell attached to him like a Siamese twin.
Ryan went 3-for-10 from the floor and
0-for-4 behind the arc. He showed the ability to draw fouls from the
officiating crew that included the well-known Ted Valentine and went
6-for-6 at the line.
Lebo said Roberts-Campbell gave the
tired signal twice. He still had six assists.
"Paris was terrific," Lebo said.
"Thirty-four minutes and having to defend (Ryan) on all those cuts, the
screens and the curls. ... He was exhausted after the game and he's one
of my best-conditioned guys."
Akeem Richmond went 2-for-9 behind the
arc and had six points. Prince Williams led the way for ECU's reserves
with a point in four minutes.
One of Kemp's highlight-reel slams came
on an assist by Paul with 14:17 to play and put the Pirates ahead,
57-32. The Aces got within 16 points, at 67-51, on a jumper by D.J.
Balentine with 5:41 to go.
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Senior point guard Miguel Paul attempts a three over Evansville's Adam
Wing. (Al Myatt photo)
The Pirates soon left the visitors in
another vapor trail with an 11-0 run capped fittingly by another Kemp
Safety officials only allowed 5,625
tickets to be sold because of the adjacent construction of the
basketball practice facility.
"Our crowd was unbelievable," Lebo
said. "I heard we had to turn people away. That stuns me."
ECU will have to become road warriors
after closing the show at home on a high note.
"I wish the game was here," Lebo said.
"Going to either one of those environments is really, really difficult.
Long trips. Changing time zones. I don't know much about Weber State
other than they're 17-1 at home. Northern Iowa is 16-3 at home."
Lebo made the remarks before the
outcome of the Weber State-Northern Iowa game was known.
Lebo said he would enjoy the CIT
semifinal win until later Saturday night when he expected to find out
who had advanced on the other side of the bracket. By now, he's
investigated every aspect of the 30-6 Wildcats of the Big Sky
The players had confidence that they
would be well-prepared to take another shot at history during the
Pirates' unprecedented season on the Division I level.
"The coaches get our mindsets right,"
Paul said of the prospect of playing his last college game. "We're going
to enjoy this one until midnight and then come back in tomorrow. ... We
know Pirate Nation is here at home and they'll be supporting us some
kind of way."
The CBS Sports Network will televise
the Tuesday night game, which is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip off.
"Something we've talked about countless
times is trying to make a name for East Carolina basketball," Kemp said.
"That's been our main goal. With our teammates' help, we are focused.
... We have another game to play and we look to bring a championship
back to Greenville."
East Carolina 81, Evansville 58
Mar. 30, 2013
Facility: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum
Records: ECU 22-12; Evansville 21-15
SCORE BY PERIODS