East Carolina men’s basketball opened Conference USA play Wednesday night, looking to make a statement against a Memphis team they have struggled against. East Carolina coming into the game had an overall record of 1-12 against Memphis and have never beaten the Tigers at their home court.
Despite that, the game started out on a good foot for the Pirates as point guard Miguel Paul hit a three-pointer for the first points of the game. Immediately after things started going downhill as the Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 run after that.
Memphis came out in a full-court press to start the game, causing a lot of turnovers and allowing them to build a decisive lead. Before the Pirates knew what hit them they were down by double digits; with Memphis’ biggest lead being 39-12 at 2:14 left in the half.
The first half was all Tigers; with just over ten left in the half the Pirates were shooting 11% from the field compared to Memphis’ 53%. East Carolina had made only two baskets until just under five minutes in the first half while Memphis had ten different scorers.
The play of Maurice Kemp drew a lot of attention in the first half. Kemp, who had been averaging 20 points in the past three games, was held scoreless until 1:38 left in the first half. With that being said, Kemp would go 3-3(including a three-point play) for 7 points in that last 1:38, a good sign for the Pirates.
At the end of the first half Memphis led the Pirates 39-19 in points, 23-11 in rebounds, and 48% to 30% in field goal percentage.
Starting the second half down by 20 points, the Pirates had a lot of work cut out for them. Luckily the Pirates came out flying, putting up 16 points in the first four minutes of the half behind a string of three pointers from Bowden and Sampson.
Since being down by 27; the Pirates went on a 23-4 run and eventually would trim the Tiger lead to five points. Unfortunately for East Carolina the five point gap didn’t last long as Memphis extended the lead back to eight; a total they would hang around and build off of until the end of the game.
The final score was 67-54 Memphis; moving the Pirates to 9-5 on the season and now only 1-4 away from home. Scoring leaders for the Pirates included: Bowden with 11 pts, Paul with 10 pts and 7 assists, Kemp with 11 pts and 5 rebound, and Robert Sampson with his average of 10 points 9 rebounds.
The theme of this game has to be “too little, too late” as the Pirates dug such a big hole for themselves in the first half they couldn’t recover. The team that came out in the second half was a completely different animal, looking more like the team Pirate fans have grown accustom to this season. In the long run this game may have been good for the Pirates; showing them that they can compete with the best in Conference USA as long as they don’t beat themselves. The team will now have to address the issues of starting fast and getting road wins as they will continue Conference USA play against UCF at home Jan 12; tip-off at 7p.m.