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.