ECU dunks RicePublished 9:47pm Saturday, February 4, 2012
GREENVILLE — The cries from the Rice bench said Corvonn Gaines couldn’t shoot. The voice in his head said he could. Gaines then he proved it by having his best game of the season to help East Carolina say goodnight to the Owls with an 82-68 victory.
With senior center, and focal point of the offense, Darrius Morrow in foul trouble for a majority of the second half the Pirates (12-10, 3-6) needed their supporting cast to step up and pick up the slack and Gaines answered the call by shooting a near flawless 5-6 from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown for a season-high 13 points.
“Today was a great day for me, I felt good out there,” Gaines said.
Gaines didn’t appreciated the commentary from the Rice bench and wasn’t shy about letting the Owls know just how good he felt as he was whistled for a technical foul for doing just that after he drilled a three-pointer to put the Pirates up 19-18 at the 8:24 mark.
“I just got a little too excited,” Gaines said.
It’s hard to act like you’ve been there before when you haven’t. Gaines, the Pirates junior point guard, entered the game shooting only 21 percent from downtown (5-23) but on Saturday he was a sniper nailing all three of his attempts while pulling down five boards and dishing out two assists.
For all his hot shooting it was a key rebound and assist to Paris Roberts-Campbell that ended up being Gaines’ biggest contribution. With ECU holding on to a slim 70-64 lead with 4:26 left in the game, Gaines snuck in the paint and rebounded a Miguel Paul miss and alertly found Paris Roberts-Campbell who drilled a back-breaking triple to cool off Rice’s comeback attempt.
Morrow led the Pirates with 16 points while forward Maurice Kemp earned his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Paul also tallied 14 points and led all players with six assists and Roberts-Campbell recorded 13 points.
“Offensively I thought we were really solid,” East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. “We had great balance.”
Rice (13-11, 4-5) struck behind the unexpected sharpshooting of Dylan Ennis and Tamir Jackson. The freshman Ennis came off the bench and hit five of his seven three-point attempts for game-high 21 points while Jackson went 2-of-4 from downtown and racked up 17 points.
The Rice duo was hot in the first half as they combined to go 5-of-9 from beyond the arc to go into halftime trailing the Pirates 39-38. While that tandem played well, it was the combination of double-double machine Arsalan Kazemi and three-point specialist Conner Frizzelle that Lebo was most concerned with.
Kazemi entered Saturday night’s contest leading Rice in scoring with 13.4 points per game and leading Conference USA in rebounding with 11.1 boards a night. However, it was a rough night for Kazemi, both figuratively and literally, as he was held to one point on 0-2 shooting from the field and was limited to only eight rebounds while sustaining a bloody lip in the second half.
“We did a terrific job on two guys we needed to stop in Kazemi and Frizzelle,” Lebo said.
The win was the third straight for the Pirates and a big one as it gives them some momentum heading into the backend of their schedule as well as their Wednesday night matchup with perennial C-USA powerhouse Memphis.
“It was huge. This was a big win for us as far as momentum goes,” Kemp said.
It was a hard fought game as the two teams combined for 10 lead changes, nine ties and four technical fouls. Aside from Gaines, Lebo was assessed with technical foul after an outburst in the second half and Rice’s Ahmad Ibrahim got nailed with back-to-back Ts and was ejected for arguing with the officials after he was called for a foul while defending on a Roberts-Campbell bucket with 1:22 left in the game.
The two technicals by Ibrahim led to what was essentially a seven-point play as Campbell-Roberts hit his free throw and Paul hit all four of his foul shots he was awarded via the double technical.
That chain of events wiped out any chance Rice had of a comeback as ECU’s lead went from 73-65 to 80-65 after the final free throw.