East Carolina locks down Central Florida

Published 2:32 am Sunday, February 8, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE - East Carolina took a huge step in its march towards its first winning season in 13 years on Saturday as it turned in its best overall performance of the season by locking up Jermaine Taylor and the Central Florida Knights 89-75.
The victory ups ECU’s record to 12-10 (4-5), eclipsing last year’s mark of 11 wins, and puts the magic number for a winning season at three with six games left on the schedule.
The Pirates scorched the nets Saturday night as they hit on 63 percent of their shots from the floor and 62 percent of their shots from beyond the arc to score the second most points in school history versus a Conference USA opponent.
Sophomore Jamar Abrams led the charge with a career-high 25 points on 10-12 shooting, and sent the Minges Maniacs into a frenzy with a thunderous one-handed put-back dunk in the second half during an ECU 12-2 run.
While Abrams spearheaded the offensive attack, ECU’s defensive assault on Taylor, C-USA’ leading scorer, was headed by senior Sam Hinnant.
Hinnant defended the Knight’s scoring machine for most of the game, while Taylor still hit his average of 24 points, he did it on 9-24 shooting.
Taylor was limited to six points in the first half, and didn’t get going until the final 10 minutes of the game, but by then the Pirates had already established a 15 point lead.
Central Florida collected an astounding 25 offensive rebounds (ECU had six), but a big contributing factor to that was the Knights shooting 36 percent from the floor (28-76).
UCF big man Kendrick Zondervan had a solid night with 19 points, while Tony Davis was added 13, but the Knight’s never got into any kind of rhythm offensively.
With Taylor held in check, UCF could not catch up to the Pirates, who ripped the game open in the second half.
Hinnant said defending Taylor was a big challenge.
Earning points was no problem for East Carolina who got double digit scoring performances from Hinnant (18), James Legan (13) and Brock Young (12) to go along with Abrams’ 25.
ECU rallied to take a 43-33 lead by halftime, then rattled off a 12-2 run early in the second half which was highlighted by a crafty Young no-look pass to Abrams for a layup, as well as Abrams’ nasty put-back jam.
Young had a solid overall game as he finished with nine assists and seven boards to go along with his 12 points.
The run was capped off when Hinnant nailed one of ECU’s 15 three-pointers to make the score 61-42 at the 11:49 mark. The Pirates’ 15 triples tied a school record.
While the offense was amazing, this game was won on the defensive end of the court. The Pirates played man for most of the night, and played with intensity for the entire game.
Sophomore center Chad Wynn and Darrius Morrow contributed to the defensive effort as well, as Wynn had a career-high five blocks, while Morrow had three.
Wynn also had two points and three rebounds, but only played 16 minutes because he was called for his fourth foul with 11 minutes left in the second half.
The Pirates will go for their third straight C-USA win on Feb. 11 when they hit the road to take on Tulane.