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Pirates’ hoops drop ninth straight game

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — There’s cold. And then there’s arctic.
The East Carolina Pirates went through a frigid period in the second half which enabled the UCF Golden Knights to run away with a 67-49 win in this Conference USA game Wednesday evening at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates (5-17, 0-9) have now lost nine straight and 16 of their last 17 games. The Knights (17-6, 6-3) used a 13-0 run in the second half, seeing ECU go ice cold in a seven-minute period, to pull away.
The Pirates hit 36.2 percent from the field, including 32 percent in the second half. ECU was 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) from the charity stripe.
Conversely, the Knights hit 43.8 percent of their field goals and 93.8 percent from the free throw line, including a perfect 13-of-13 in the second half.
ECU guard Cory Farmer, who finished with 10 points, said the team has to keep plugging away.
That talent level looked pretty even between the Pirates and Knights in the first half.
UCF got off to a sizzling start as Lavell Payne threw down a slam dunk while getting fouled on the first possession of the game. Payne converted the free throw for a quick 3-0 lead.
Josh Peppers, who led the Knights with 24 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the field, drilled a 3-pointer the next time down the floor as ECU was down 6-0 in a hurry.
Courtney Captain cut the deficit in half with a 3-pointer from the wing two minutes into the game. It was a sign of things to come for the senior guard.
Jeremy Ingram gave ECU its first lead of the game, burying a triple at the 11:37 mark for a 10-8 advantage.
Jermaine Taylor, who had 17 points, was able to answer at the other end, as the sophomore guard’s 3-pointer handed the Knights an 11-10 lead.
Captain, who led ECU with 15 points, was able to get the Pirates even at 15-15 on a long 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down. The Knights regained the lead the next time down the floor, but Captain came through again for ECU, stroking home his third triple to make it 18-18.
Captain’s fourth bomb, coming with just over five minutes to play, handed the Pirates a 21-18 advantage.
The lead wouldn’t last long as UCF’s Tony Davis tied it with a 3-pointer of his own.
The teams traded the lead in the late stages of the first half. A ferocious dunk by John Fields, who finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds, put ECU ahead 26-25 before Kenrick Zondervan’s bucket gave the lead back to the Knights. A steal and slam by Taylor just before the horn handed the Knights a three-point lead, 29-26.
UCF coach Kirk Spreraw was impressed with ECU’s efforts in the first half.
The Knights were able to take control early in the second half.
UCF used a 3-pointer by Mike O’Donnell and a dunk from Taylor to extend its lead to 36-29 at the 14:54 mark, prompting Stokes to call a timeout. It worked as the Pirates were able settle down and make a run.
Gabe Blair’s three-point play and a layup by Farmer pulled the Pirates within 36-34 with 12:25 to play.
However, the Pirates then went frigid, going scoreless for 5:25. ECU also went nearly seven minutes between field goals and the Knights took advantage.
Taylor’s 3-pointer sparked a 13-0 run by the Knights, pushing their lead to 49-34. Peppers hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 straight points in the run.
Ingram finally put an end to ECU’s field goal drought at the 5:30 mark, hitting a 3-pointer to make it 51-39. The Pirates wouldn’t get any closer.
The Knights pushed their lead to as many as 19 points, 65-46, with two minutes remaining in the game.
The Pirates are back in action Saturday at Houston. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.
ECU returns home Feb. 14 to face Southern Miss.