GREENVILLE, N.C. - Pirate point guard Miguel Paul made his return from a two game suspension to score 24 points and lead ECU past UNC-Greensboro 76-73 in Minges Coliseum Friday night.
Much like in UNC-G head coach Wes Miller's debut a year ago in the Greensboro Coliseum against the Pirates, the Spartans (who have now lost the last six straight to ECU) came back from a double-digit deficit to once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Pirates never led in the first half until the 5:13 mark when Maurice Kemp connected on two free throws to give ECU their first lead of the game, 27-26.
ECU(3-0) found themselves down by as much as fourteen in the second half to the visiting Spartans who the Pirates have played the past five straight years and eight of the last nine. But a technical foul in tight quarters, called on the Pirates' Robert Sampson, seemed to set the team and the patrons in Minges Coliseum on fire.
Down 46-36, the Pirates began to eat into UNC-G's lead as they found a way to shut down Korey Van Dussen who scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half, including four treys. But when they shut him down then bulky Kayel Locke scored three times in a row to push the Spartan lead up to 14 at 54-40.
UNC-G power forward Kayel Locke scored three times in a row for the Spartans. A turnaround jumper, a drive and a three-point play on the subsequent possession gave Greensboro their biggest lead of the game at 54-40 with 15:29 to go.
But three Akeem Richmond three-pointers for ECU sliced the Spartan lead to just two at 64-62 with six minutes left and the Pirate comeback was on. The building only got louder as the game progressed from the nearly 5,000 in attendance.
Robert Sampson's trey pushed the Pirates out front by four with just 38 seconds left. A circus three point jumper from the top of the key from UNC-G's Trevis Simpson found the basket. Simpson was fouled on the shot to put the Spartans back up by three at 75-73 with just 14 ticks left on the game clock.
ECU's Robert Sampson was fouled on the inbounds pass. He hit one of two from the charity stripe for a three point cushion. UNC-G(1-2) was unable to connect at the end with four shot attempts in the last 10 seconds.
"A tough game, hard fought game. I'm proud of our group to come back from a deficit of 14 points and find a way to win the game," said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo, "I thought Greensboro came out with the right mindset. They were tough, physical and they made shots."
Maurice Kemp had another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards on 8 for 10 shooting from the foul line and 4 of 9 overall. Rhode Island combo guard transfer Akeem Richmond found his shooting touch in the second half, hitting four of eight from three-point range to end up with 16. Freshman power forward Marshall Guilmette chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Pirates hit 49 percent of their shots, including 7 of 22 from the arc and connected on 21-30 from the foul line. ECU got 34 points in the paint and 28 from their bench in the victory. UNC-G was limited to 44 percent shooting including 11 of 23 from the arc.
ECU won the turnover battle by two as the Spartans turned it over 16 times in the contest.
Trevis Simpson led all Spartans in scoring with 19 while Kayel Locke made his presence known with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Derrell Armstrong scored eight points and nabbed eight rebounds for UNC-G.
Personnel Notes from East Carolina:
•Freshman Michael Zangari suffered an ankle sprain during last Saturday night's game against Washington and Lee and sat out Friday's game against UNC-G. His status beyond Friday is yet to be determined.
•Senior Erin Straughn will be out indefinitely with a lower right leg injury.
Catch Chanellos Pizza PI-TV Postgame video with interviews with both coaches as well as postgame comments from ECU's Miguel Paul and Akeem Richmond.