Maurice Kemp scored 33 points and Ty Armstrong added 22 in the win
HOUSTON,TX ¬ East Carolina senior Maurice Kemp turned 22 on Saturday and celebrated his birthday by scoring a career-high 33 points and leading the Pirates to a 79-63 win over Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Pirates, who had lost their previous two games, improved to 13-8 overall and 4-4 in Conference USA. It’s just the second time that ECU has ended the first half of the conference season at or above. 500; the other time was two years ago in coach Jeff Lebo’s first year at the helm. The Pirates completed the first half of league play 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road.
Kemp was 10-of-15 from the floor and 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. He also gave ECU a boost on the boards with nine. His 33 points tied the school mark for points scored in a C-USA game, while his six steals were also the most by a Pirate in a C-USA game.
Junior Ty Armstrong added a career-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He played just 21 minutes and only eight in the second half.
After Rice (5-16, 1-6) scored the opening basket to start the second half, ECU went on a 12-0 run to turn a three-point halftime lead, 29-26, into a 13-point advantage, 41-28, in a span of 4:04. The Pirates scored six straight points in the paint before Miguel Paul hit the second of their two 3-point field goals. An old-fashion three-point play from Kemp capped the run.
The Pirates’ lead never dipped below double figures again as they scored 30 points in the first 11:28 of the second half after being held limited to 29 first half points. ECU held Rice to 14 points during that span.
The lead ballooned to 25 points, 74-49, with 4:58 to play.
The Pirates shot 71.4 percent from the floor in the second half, connecting on 15-of-21 attempts. They finished the game shooting 57.4 percent, their second-highest field goal percentage of the year.
ECU also shot better than 70 percent (.704) from the free throw after halftime, making 19-of-27.
Rice and ECU, who entered the game one and two in C-USA in 3-pointers made per game, combined for just seven. The Pirates were 2-of-11 behind the arc, while the Owls were 5-of-18. Austin Ramljak made a trio of 3s to lead Rice.
Tamir Jackson paced the Owls with 19 points and nine rebounds.
The two teams exchanged baskets for the majority of the first half as neither side was able to gain more than a four-point advantage. Keith Washington gave the Owls an 18-14 lead at the 10:24 mark for nearly eight minutes before ECU freshman Michael Zangari beat the Owl defense down the court for the go-ahead layup.
Armstrong’s dunk gave the Pirates their largest lead of the half, 29-25, with 1:47 to play. ECU had the opportunity to extend its lead in the final seconds of half, but Paris Roberts-Campbell was called for charging with 1.7 seconds left and the first 20 minutes ended with the Pirates ahead by three, 29-26.