Pirates coast in season debutPublished 8:37pm Saturday, November 10, 2012
GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s season opener went as expected as the Pirates rolled past the Div. III Washington & Lee Generals 72-50 Saturday despite the absence of star point guard Miguel Paul.
It was announced before the tip-off that Paul, a preseason Conference USA first-team selection, was suspended for the first two games of the year for violating team rules.
East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo declined to directly discuss the suspension but did say, “We have rules and regulations and he’s going to be out. We’re going to have to pick up the pieces and play without him until he gets back with us.”
That wasn’t too hard to do on Saturday as the Pirates (1-0) jumped all over the Generals (0-1) early and never looked back.
Senior forward Maurice Kemp scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed six boards to lead East Carolina past Washington & Lee.
“I just wanted to bring energy,” Kemp said. “I wanted to spark the guys in anyway I could.”
Freshman center Marshall Guilmette and junior transfer guard Akeem Richmond looked good in their first game inside Minges Coliseum, which helped soften the sting of Paul’s absence.
The 6-10 Guilmette shot 4-4 from the floor and 5-6 from the line to tally 13 points to go along with his six rebounds, while Richmond, a transfer from Rhode Island, went 3-4 from beyond the arc and finished the game with 10 points.
“It was a great feeling,” Richmond said about playing in his first game as a Pirate. “I just wanted to go out there try not to do too much, get my teammates involved and execute the offense and I thought I did a good job of doing that.”
Richmond hit his first shot as Pirate early in the first half when he nailed a three-pointer during a 12-0 run that saw the score go from 6-6 to 18-6 an ended with another Richmond triple.
From that point on the game was never in doubt, and ECU would take a 35-22 lead into halftime thanks to a quality defensive effort.
The Pirates held the Generals to 33 percent shooting for the game and clamped down on their pesky shooters, holding them to 18 percent from downtown.
“On the defensive side I was very pleased with how we did,” Kemp said. “I thought we played solid defensively. Offensively, we were a little rough. A couple of guys were confused on where they were supposed to be but we’re going to get that together.”
Playing in his first game with ECU, Guilmette looked pretty comfortable as he displayed an infectious enthusiasm and made some nifty interior passes.
“I think he’s going to be a good player for us,” Lebo said. “He’s skilled, he can pass, he’s got good size and he’s really got a good basketball IQ.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Pirates on Saturday as 6-9 freshman F/C Michael Zengari sustained a gruesome ankle injury on a drive in the first half and backup point guard Peter Torlak was forced to leave the game after sustaining a blow to his eye.
“Zengari, we’ll know more about bout his ankle (Sunday),” Lebo said. “Torlak I think he got some stiches in his eye, but he’s a tough kid and he’ll be back. If it’s swollen shut he’ll be at practice the next day.”
The Pirates blew the game wide open in the second half as they went on a 17-10 run and took a 52-32 lead when transfer forward Ty Armstrong took a pass from Guilmette for an easy bucket.
Armstrong would end the game with seven points and three boards, while shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell shot 4-9 to tally nine points.
Robert Sampson, who displayed a limp during the game, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and scored three points.
The Pirates will be back in action on Nov. 13 when they host Methodist at 7 p.m.