ECU falls to UMass

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2011

East Carolina’ Maurice Kemp (2) goes up for a layup in a game against Coker earlier this year. On Wednesday, Kemp scored 12 points in the Pirates 63-58 loss to UMass. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s erratic play continued on Wednesday night as the Pirates battled back from a 19-point first-half deficit to claw within one point of UMass with under a minute left to play in the game. However, ECU could not complete the rally as it was plagued by poor shooting in its 63-58 loss to the Minutemen.
The Pirates shot a frigid 35 percent from the floor and were downright awful from the free throw line where they made only nine of their 23 attempts.
With a shooting performance like that, it wasn’t too hard for East Carolina’s second-year coach Jeff Lebo to figure out why his team lost it’s third straight game.
“We can’t score,” East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. “How are you supposed to win scoring in the 50s? We have to find somebody that can put that ball in the basket.”
After his shooting touch went AWOL on Saturday in ECU’s loss to Charlotte, center Darius Morrow bounced back from his 0-8 performance to lead the Pirates (4-4, Conference USA) in scoring with 13 points despite fouling out with 2:11 left to play. Junior forward Maurice Kemp came off the bench to provide a spark for ECU as he tallied 12 points, while point guard Miguel Paul and shooting guard Shamarr Bowden each added 10.
UMass (7-3, Atlantic 10) was paced by Freddie Riley who scored a team-high 14 points, all of which came in the first half. Despite being a major force early, Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg only played Riley for one minute in the second half.
For the Pirates, it was the second game in a row that they could not cap off a comeback as they pieced together late run against Charlotte on Saturday only to lose 76-64 to the 49ers.
“We had plenty of opportunities in this game but we just couldn’t finish it out,” East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. “We’re not disciplined or experienced enough yet in close games to make the right plays to win the close games. That’s a problem right now.”
Last night, East Carolina trailed 40-21 at halftime, but bounced out of the break with a jolting 16-4 run to cut the Minutemen’s advantage to 44-37.
After the ugly first half, ECU dug deep to enter the second half with newfound intensity.
“Nobody in that locker room was a happy camper,” Morrow said. “There wasn’t much to say. Everybody new what we had to do … That’s something positive about this game was our second-half performance. We stepped up defensively and we showed a lot of heart and effort.”
The Pirates handled the constant pressing by UMass well and in the second half countered with an effective one of its own, which combined with a big effort by Paul down the stretch, allowed them stay within striking distance.
With 40 seconds left to play, Paul converted a layup to cut the deficit to 59-58 and send the crowd of 4,419 to its feet. However, that crowd would not have anything to cheer about for the rest of the game as the Pirates could not muster another bucket.
Tempo was a key concern for ECU heading into its matchup with the Minutemen by the Pirates beat UMass at its own game as they won the turnover battle 24-16 and tallied 13 steals to the Minutemen’s nine.