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Surprising Pirates Upend Northwestern, Advance
to BCA Championship Game Against N.C. State

From Staff and ECU SID Office Reports

RALEIGH — Conference USA can rest easy if it feared new member East Carolina would sully the pedigreed league's lofty power rankings from the get-go.

ECU pulled off its second upset in a row, stunning Big Ten opponent Northwestern, 71-68, Thursday night in the semifinals of the Black Coaches Association Invitational Tournament in Raleigh's Entertainment and Sport Arena.

The win came on the heels of an equally remarkable victory by the Pirates on Wednesday, in which they overcame an 11-point second half deficit to shock Big East foe Rutgers, 79-74.

The Wildcats had advanced to the second round match-up against ECU with a 78-73 triumph on Wednesday over Virginia Commonwealth, the Pirates' former brethren in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Tourney host N.C. State, of the ACC, outgunned WAC member San Jose State, 78-56, in the other semifinal contest, setting up a compelling title game between the Wolfpack and the Pirates. The schools have not met in basketball since December 8, 1982, when the 'Pack scratched out a 57-49 win in Reynolds Coliseum.

ECU made the renewal of the rivalry possible by knocking down a school-record 17 three-point field goals and eventually opening a big second half lead which a frenzied Northwestern surge down the stretch could not overcome.

Senior Kenyatta Brown scored 17 of his career-high 23 points in the first half and helped the Pirates to a one-point halftime lead, 33-32. Brown scored 11 of the Pirates` first 13 points, including three three-point field goals. During the first period of play ECU (2-0) made 12 field goals, nine of which were three-point field goals.

The two teams traded baskets at the start of the second half before the Pirates bolted out to a 15-point lead, 60-45, with 6:00 remaining in the game. ECU outscored Northwestern (1-1) 18-4 over a nine minute period in the second half as it made five consecutive three-point shots, three from senior Brandon Hawkins.

Hawkins tied his career-high by draining six three-point field goals en route to 20 points. Brown also made a career-best five three-point field goals as did sophomore Erroyl Bing who hit four shots from three-point range. Bing finished with 18 points.

Northwestern used a 21-7 run late in the second half to cut the lead to one, but Hawkins` sixth three-pointer of the game pushed the ECU lead back to four, 70-66, with 0:17 seconds remaining. The Wildcats pulled within three, but their final shot glanced off the rim as the Pirates held on for the victory.

Tonight's BCA title game between the Pirates and State will tip off at the ESA at 8:00 p.m.

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ECU's SID Office contributed to this story.

02/23/2007 01:35:08 PM

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