Red-hot Culpepper scorches East Carolina

Published 10:45 pm Sunday, January 18, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE - It may have been freezing cold outside Minges Coliseum, but inside a red-hot Randy Culpepper scorched East Carolina for 25 point in 29 minutes to lead UTEP (11-6, 2-1) to an 88-67 win over East Carolina (9-7, 1-2).
Standing at roughly six-feet tall, the undersized sixth-man who’s averaging 19 points per game came off the bench and provided the Miners with another big time performance and fueled a pivotal 16-0 second half run that put the game out of reach the Pirates and hand them their second straight Conference USA loss.
“Randy was great tonight,” UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. “I think we have two of the better players in the league in Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper and if one doesn’t have it going than the other one can usually pick up the slack … Randy does what Randy does. He is an explosive offensive player, and if he gets it going it’s hard to shut him off.”
Jackson, the Miners’ all-time leading scorer and the C-USA leader with 23.6 points per night, finished with 19.
The Pirates didn’t get things going till the end of the first half. Fearing the height mismatches presented by a UTEP lineup that doesn’t have a starter shorter than 6-6, ECU coach Mack McCarthy started the game with a 1-3-1 defense that was easily exploited as the Pirates fell behind 15-4.
After a Julyan Stone (13 points) layup the Miners surged ahead to a 30-13 lead with eight minutes left in the first half.
Led by Brock Young, who netted a team-high 18 points while handing out seven assists, and James Legan (six points) the Pirates nearly erased the 17-point deficit to head into halftime down 41-36.
East Carolina came out of the break slightly sluggish and after a Culpepper bucket, fell behind 50-37.
Once again, the Pirates rallied back, only this time it was senior Sam Hinnant that sparked a 11-0
Hinnant, who was in a slump for most of the game as he shot 3-11 from the floor, nailed back-to-back three’s to resuscitate East Carolina.
The heart of the Purple and Gold did not stay pumping long, as Culpepper and Jackson pulled the plug on the Pirates by igniting a 16-0 that put the tag on the toe of ECU.
“We got off to an awfully bad start and kind of hung around and hung around; which is almost the story of every first half that we had this year to be honest,” McCarthy said. “We scrambled back in it, we scratched and clawed, but it was sort of an uphill battle.
“In the second half once again we came out and started pretty good. We missed few shots but we got things going and then caught up … But once they made their run I thought we hung our heads a little bit which bothered me. We played an awful lot like we practiced this week: Just Ok. And that’s not good enough against a good basketball team.”
After the 16-0 run in which Culpepper, the Miners’ sophomore guard and Conference USA’s fourth leading scorer, poured in eight points, the Pirates basically quit with a little under 10 minutes left in a 66-48 ball game.
“They have two great players in Culpepper and Jackson,” McCarthy said. “We did a good job in spurts against them, but overall we did not do a good job against them.”
ECU failed to play defense for the rest of the half and looked uninterested in even making it look like they wanted to stop UTEP.
On offense, the Pirates failed to find any kind of balance as Young was the only Pirate in double figures.
Hinnant’s nine points were the Pirates’ next best, while Jamar Abrams, Darrius Morrow and Chris Turner each added eight points.
East Carolina center Chad Wynn was a non-factor offensively, but did manage to pull down nine rebounds.
The road ahead of the Pirates only gets rougher as they will look to snap their two-game skid . against a scorching hot Houston Cougars team on the road Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.
UTEP (11-6)
McCulley 3-3 0-0 6, Watts 1-7 1-2 3, Cooper 2-3 3-5 7, Stone 4-6 3-4 13, Jackson 6-21 5-8 19, Moultrie 2-2 2-3 6, Jones 2-3 0-0 4, Culpepper 10-17 1-2 25, Ffrench 0-0 0-0 0, Portalatin 1-2 0-0 2, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Rashiduddin 0-0 0-0 0, Munoz 0-0 0-0 0, Britten 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 32-66 16-26 88.
Abrams 2-6 4-4 8, Wynn 2-5 1-2 5, Legan 2-8 0-0 6, Hinnant 3-11 1-2 9, Young 6-13 5-6 18, Morrow 3-6 2-4 8, Kupets 0-1 0-0 0, Turner 3-3 2-7 8, Sherrod 1-1 1-2 3, O’Bryan 0-0 0-0 0, Sargent 0-0 0-0 0, Steele 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 22-54 18-29 67.
Halftime—UTEP 41-36. 3-Point Goals—UTEP 8-17 (Culpepper 4-8, Stone 2-2, Jackson 2-3, Watts 0-4), East Carolina 5-19 (Legan 2-7, Hinnant 2-8, Young 1-2, Abrams 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—UTEP 36 (Cooper 7), East Carolina 40 (Morrow, Wynn 9). Assists—UTEP 18 (Stone 7), East Carolina 10 (Young 7). Total Fouls—UTEP 21, East Carolina 19. A—6,021.