A tale of two halves

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

East Carolina’s Maurice Kemp scored a career-high 30 points during the Pirates 89-78 victory over Houston on Wednesday. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — Maurice Kemp sat in front of the media after Wednesday night’s game and wondered out loud what the 5,087 Pirates fans that showed up to watch East Carolina play Houston was thinking: What if the Pirates could play the first half of their games the same way they play the second?
East Carolina overcame a six-point first-half deficit in which it shot 0-9 from downtown by nailing eight of its 15 three-point attempts in the second half to rally past the Cougars 89-78.
Maurice Kemp was incredible from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer as he scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead ECU (11-5, 2-1 Conference USA) to its second straight come-from-behind win.
On Saturday, East Carolina erased a 17-point deficit to top Central Florida 88-85 in overtime and on Wednesday the Pirates found the same late-game magic a it wiped out a 10-point second-half deficit to top Houston (12-4, 1-2 C-USA).
“We were actually joking about it in the locker room,” Kemp said. “I said, ‘Imagine what it would be like if we could get two halves like the second.’
“That’s our goal. If we could do that, play the first half like we played the second, I think we could be really special.”
While ECU’s late rally sent the fans in a frenzy, it was just another day at the office for Pirates coach Jeff Lebo.
“It was another exciting game here and kind of more of the same stuff,” Lebo said. “We get down and struggle offensively shooting the ball – we missed the first 13 threes … But, luckily our offense showed up in the second half.”
The Pirates entered the second half trailing 36-30 and fell behind 50-40 after a Danuel House bucket at the 13:48 mark.
House would lead the Cougars with 22 points, while 6-8 sophomore sensation TaShawn Thomas scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
East Carolina would miss 13 straight three-point attempts before Paris Campbell-Roberts nailed a triple to cut the Cougars lead to 52-45.
After not being able to buy a trey, the Pirates could not miss from beyond the arc as they finished the game converting eight of their final 11 attempts thanks to red-hot performance from super sub Akeem Richmond, who went 4-6 from three-point land and scored all 14 of his points in the second half.
When asked to explain the Pirates sharpshooting second stanza Kemp dished off the credit to Richmond.
“It helps when you got The Microwave right here,” said Kemp as he gestured toward Richmond. “He randomly comes in cooking. He gets to a point where he can’t miss.”
East Carolina trailed 69-60 with a little over eight minutes to go but got itself back in the game thanks to a 13-2 run that was fueled by some critical stops that were backed by big time buckets.
Richmond nailed two threes during the run, with the second one coming from beyond NBA three-point range and gave ECU its first lead of the second half, 73-71.
The Pirates briefly fell behind 74-73 but recaptured the lead on a Richmond trey and finished the contest on 13-2 run.