The Pirates have been bitten by the injury bug twice in one week. Both of East Carolina’s senior leaders in the back court coming off the bench, Corvonn Gaines and Shamarr Bowden, have suffered shoulder injuries, with Gaines’ injury being season-ending.
Without Gaines and Bowden, the Pirates leaned on Conference USA’s leading scorer Maurice Kemp. Kemp, a 6-foot-8 senior scored a game high 23 points to help East Carolina (15-10, 6-6 Conference USA) to a 72-63 win against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (14-11, 6-6 Conference USA) at Reynolds Coliseum Wednesday night.
It was the Pirates first ever road win against the Golden Hurricane which has them off to an ideal start to their season-long three game road trip. More importantly, ECU jumps ahead of Tulsa into the No. 5 spot in the league standings.
The difference in the game came at free throw line. Tulsa shot an atrocious 6 for 19 at the stripe while the Pirates made 16 of its 22 attempts—including a perfect 6 for 6 in the final minute to seal the game.
Akeem Richmond followed his 25 points, 8 for 15 shooting performance on Saturday with arguably his most complete game of the season. Richmond drained five 3’s for 17 points with 4 rebounds, but it was his emergence in key moments that set him apart.
Trailing 56-52 with 6:07 remaining in the game, Richmond stepped up and hit the next three baskets, all three-pointers, to give the Pirates a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. In the game’s final minute, he recorded a steal and hit two free throws that broke the Golden Hurricane’s back.
In the first half, ECU led by as many 14 points at 31-17. Tulsa would respond with an 8-0 run to close the first frame, with the Pirates leading 34-29 at halftime. The Golden Hurricane's momentum would carry over into the second half; taking their first lead of the game since 5-4 at 38-36, following a Scottie Haralson triple, and extending the run to 17-4.
Despite getting into foul trouble, Kemp always had an answer to keep ECU within striking distance. Along with Ty Armstrong, Kemp would finish the game with 4 fouls. Miguel Paul, Robert Sampson, Paris Roberts-Campbell, and Marshall Guilmette each had 3 fouls apiece.
Armstrong and Roberts-Campbell had bounce back games from Saturday’s overtime loss to Southern Miss. Roberts-Campbell, who passed up a wide-open look for the game-winning shot in the dying seconds of overtime Saturday and turned over the ball, finished a rebound shy of his first career double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Armstrong scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds following his poor 1 point outing against the Golden Eagles.
Miguel Paul and Robert Sampson each struggled from the field against the Golden Hurricane. Paul was 1 for 9 shooting, but recorded 10 assists and went 4 for 4 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Sampson scored his only 3 points of the night by completing a three-point play with 1:50 left in the game to push ECU’s lead back to 66-61 after Tulsa had rallied to make it a three-point game. He pulled down 8 rebounds as well.
Tulsa had three players finish in double-figures, led by Haralson – who collected a team high 20 points and 9 rebounds.
ECU will continue its road trip on Saturday against Larry Brown’s Southern Methodist Mustangs (13-13, 3-8 Conference USA). Opening tip is scheduled for 3 pm.