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Brown and Pirates Make Move Towards Key Objective


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GREENVILLE — Kenyatta Brown is doing his part to close out his career in style by keeping East Carolina on track to reach a team goal many observers thought was unrealistic for the school's first season in Conference USA.

For the fourth time this season, the Brooklyn, NY, senior played a pivotal role in helping the Pirates gain a league victory, inching the program ever closer to clinching a berth in C-USA's post-season tournament.

Brown had 21 points, and Travis Holcomb-Faye added 17, to lead East Carolina to a 63-46 home win over heavily favored Houston Saturday night.

Brown was also a key factor in ECU's earlier conference triumphs over Louisville, Saint Louis and Southern Mississippi.

Houston, trailing only Memphis in the league's National Division, came into the game on a three-game winning streak, including a road shocker over the Tigers.

In contrast, the Pirates entered the contest next-to-last in the American Division and fighting to maintain their tenuous inside track over last-place DePaul and National Division cellar dweller Southern Miss to stay in the mix for one of the 14-team league's 12 tourney spots.

ECU, which never trailed after jumping out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, kept Houston bottled up with a smothering defense, holding the Cougars to a field goal shooting percentage of 29.6.

East Carolina coach Bill Herrion alluded to Houston's recent impressive wins in sizing up the magnitude of his team's victory.

"This was a quality team we beat tonight," he said. "They were playing as well as anyone in this league."

Fuzzy Tournament Math Getting Clearer

Brown hit 7 of 12 attempts from the field, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range, for ECU (11-16, 4-10 C-USA). Holcomb-Faye was 6-of-9 from the field and collected eight rebounds and four assists.

Dominic Smith led Houston (15-12, 8-6) with 14 points, and George Williams added 11 points and seven boards.

With Brown's help, East Carolina shot 50 percent (5-for-10) from 3-point range in the first half, taking a 27-24 advantage at halftime.

The Pirates were 22-for-52 (42 percent) from the field for the game, with a 42-33 advantage on the boards. Houston shot 16-for-54 from the field, including 5-for-21 (24 percent) from 3-point range.

With ECU (4-10 C-USA), DePaul (2-12) and Southern Miss (3-11) each having two games left, the Pirates appear to have gained a clear path to a tourney seeding, barring a seemingly unlikely combination of outcomes down the stretch.

The Blue Demons, whose two wins over ECU would otherwise give them the nod for a berth in a tie between the two teams, must win both of their remaining games to stay in the picture — a scenario which would require them to pull off major upsets when they host Saint Louis on February 26 and in their regular-season-ending game at currently No. 9 Marquette on March 1.

ECU holds the tiebreaker advantage over the Golden Eagles, having defeated them in the only meeting scheduled between the teams. Thus, USM must topple UAB on the road on February 26 and then return home to knock off South Florida on March 2 to move into position for a possible tourney slot.

For their own purposes, the Pirates can make the mathematical calculations moot, relative to DePaul and Southern Miss, by winning either of their remaining games — at home against Marquette on February 26 or in Fort Worth versus Texas Christian on March 2.

——— Box Score ———


HOUSTON (15-12, 8-6)

Truscott 3-6 3-3 9, Williams 5-13 0-1 11, Okafor 2-6 1-2 5, Smith 4-10 4-5 14, Gaines 1-9 0-2 3, Oliver 0-4 1-2 1, McGuire 0-1 0-0 0, Keys 0-0 0-0 0, Shelton 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 16-54 9-15 46.

EAST CAROLINA (11-16, 4-10)

Brown 7-12 1-2 21, Bing 2-6 0-0 5, Mikulas 2-6 5-7 9, Badiane 4-8 0-2 8, Holcomb-Faye 6-9 4-5 17, Foxx 0-3 0-1 0, Hawkins 1-6 0-0 3, Boddie 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Twitty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 10-17 63.

Halftime: East Carolina 27-24.

3-Point goals: Houston 5-21 (Smith 2-5, Williams 1-2, Shelton 1-4, Gaines 1-8, Oliver 0-2); East Carolina 9-20 (Brown 6-10, Hawkins 1-1, Bing 1-2, Holcomb-Faye 1-3, Moore 0-1, Foxx 0-3).

Assists: Houston 11 (Gaines 5); East Carolina 9 (Holcomb-Faye 4).

Rebounds: Houston 33 (Okafor 8); East Carolina 42 (Bing 9).

Fouled out: None

Total fouls: Houston 16, East Carolina 14.

Attendance: 4,921.

 02/23/2007 10:59:37 AM

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