East Carolina returned home to Minges Coliseum for the first time in two weeks when they hosted the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers Wednesday night, looking to complete a sweep of the season series.
Trailing 64-47 with 8:34 to go, the Blazers went on an 11-0 run to make things interesting. But in the game’s final three minutes, the Pirates defense shut the door and sealed a 74-61 win.
ECU (14-9, 5-5 Conference USA) broke its recent trend of getting into foul trouble – only committing 10 fouls as a team. UAB (11-13, 3-7 Conference USA) ranks in the top-three in the league in free throw percentage but were only able to attempt 10 shots from the charity stripe (7-10).
One of the Pirates primary concerns going into the game was the Blazers ability to shoot from beyond the arc. With Corvonn Gaines sitting out with a shoulder injury, a number of players had to fill the void by committee—including freshman walk-on Prince Williams. UAB couldn’t find any type of a rhythm from outside, shooting 2-16.
Pirates coach Jeff Lebo said Gaines would have an MRI taken on his shoulder later this week and could miss up to three weeks.
ECU point guard Miguel Paul bounced back from his 8 turnover performance against UCF with a double-double; scoring 11 points, all in the second half, and collecting a game-high 11 assists.
One of the beneficiaries of Paul’s performance was Conference USA’s leading scorer Maurice Kemp, who scored 24 points. Ty Armstrong was set up multiple times by Paul—including a bucket that ended the Blazer’s 11-0 run and put the game away. Armstrong finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds.
Akeem Richmond was a lethal threat from deep, scoring 15 points and shooting 3-4 on triples. Robert Sampson grabbed a team-high 7 boards to go with his 9 points.
In the school’s first meeting, UAB forward Rod Rucker had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, but the Blazers fell short on their home floor 91-85 Jan. 23.
On Wednesday, Rucker scored the first six points of the game, before the Pirates responded with a 13-2 run. ECU led 38-34 going into halftime. Rucker had a team-high 14 points and 9 rebounds for UAB.
The Voice of the Pirates for the last 25 years, Jeff Charles, was back behind the microphone for the first time since being diagnosed with colon cancer in December. ECU’s starting five jogged across the floor to greet Charles after each of them was announced.
Charles plans to call the remainder of the Pirates’ home basketball games for the Pirate IMG Sports Network.
ECU will stay home to face Southern Miss (19-6, 8-2 Conference USA), who is one of Conference USA’s best. The Golden Eagles knocked off Tulane 71-60 on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 5 pm Saturday night.