By Tony Castleberry
Saturday, March 30, 2013
A historic season now has a chance to be a championship season.
East Carolina dominated Evansville in the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on Saturday, leading for all 40 minutes of an 81-58 victory in Minges Coliseum. The Pirates (22-12) will play at Weber State on Tuesday for the CIT championship.
With one more win, ECU will tie the school record for most wins in a season and hoist the first postseason trophy in program history.
“That was the best we’ve played, maybe, all year,” Pirate coach Jeff Lebo said. “Everybody played a hand in this one and our crowd, again, was unbelievable. I heard we had to turn people away. That stuns me.
“We’re going to have to travel now. I wish the game was here.”
Due to code restrictions with the new practice facility construction going on at Minges, the number of tickets available for Saturday’s game was capped at 5,625, and ECU sold every one of them.
Seniors Maurice Kemp and Miguel Paul each turned in dominant performances in their Minges finales. Kemp scored 20 points — his eighth consecutive game with at least 20 — and grabbed 12 rebounds while Paul added 19 points and game-high 11 assists.
Ty Armstrong finished with 17 points while Robert Sampson led all players with 13 boards. Sampson also went 5-for-5 from the field and scored 11 points.
“It was clicking on all the right cylinders,” said Paul, who broke Brock Young’s single-season assists record of 227 on Saturday. Paul has 230 this season. “Every day in practice, we’re going hard. … I think that’s the biggest key for us, just knowing that this time of year, there’s not that many guys playing, no matter what tournament it is.”
The Pirates took control of the game from the opening tip and took a 16-point lead, 31-15, after two Paul free throws with 6 minutes, 57 seconds left to play in the first half. They led 40-26 at halftime.
In the early minutes of the second half, Kemp threw down another highlight reel dunk on Evansville’s 6-foot-10 freshman Egidijus Mockevisius. In a March 23 CIT win over Rider, Kemp had a similar jam that made ESPN’s Sportscenter Top 10 plays.
“I like the one (versus) Rider better, but my teammates told me I got higher on this one,” Kemp said. “I guess I’m going to have to look at the film.”
ECU’s lead swelled to as many as 27 points — 78-51 — on Kemp’s alley-oop dunk with 3:28 left to play.
While the Pirate offense was incredibly efficient — 55.4 percent field goal shooting, 20 assists, eight turnovers — the defense played a critical role in the win as well, particularly the job Paris Roberts-Campbell did on the Purple Aces’ leading scorer, senior Colt Ryan.
Ryan. averaging 20.4 points per game coming in, led Evansville (21-15) with 12 points, but he shot just 3-of-10 from the field and found it difficult to get good looks.
“He’s a lockdown guy,” Lebo said of Roberts-Campbell. “There was no question, when we watched film of Evansville, who was going to be on (Ryan). (Ryan) didn’t get a clean look tonight at all. Not one, I don’t believe.”
Contact Tony Castleberry at email@example.com, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.
via The Daily Reflector.