March 7, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - East Carolina dominated the boards in the second half, scoring 13 second-chance points and the Pirates advanced to the quarterfinals at the Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship with a 68-66 win over Rice Wednesday in the FedEx Forum.
ECU outrebounded Rice 23-10 in the second half.
The final minutes of the game were a total reversal of the Owls' start.
Rice began the game by holding ECU to only one shot following its first six missed field goal attempts and the Owls enjoyed an early 13-4 lead when Arsalan Kazemi stole the ball from ECU point guard Miguel Paul and flushed it at the other end for a fast-break jam.
"In the first half, I thought we established ourselves on the boards defensively and we had the edge rebounding," Rice head coach Ben Braun said. "In the second half, I thought the key to ECU's turnaround was them getting offensive putbacks and reloads and that really hurt us.
"To me, the big difference in the game was the rebound margin in the second half," Braun added. "We obviously took care of the ball better, we only turned it over two or three times, which is a pretty good number, but the rebounding margin, specifically in the second half, spelled the difference for us."
The Owls held a 33-32 lead at halftime. The early minutes of the second period included five ties and eight lead changes.
For the game ECU made 10-of-24 three-point attempts. The Owls answered a late Pirate triple and would build a six-point lead with just under seven minutes to play and begin to grab momentum.
Erin Straughn converted a three-pointer for ECU to pull the Pirates to within one, 55-54, with 9:10 to play but Lucas Kuipers answered with a three at the other end for the Owls. Julian DeBose would later come up with a steal and score on the fast-break to give the Owls' a 60-54 lead.
The two teams would trade baskets with David Chadwick's jumper in the lane giving Rice a 62-56 lead with 6:49 left.
But following Chadwick's basket, Rice would get only two more rebounds the rest of the way and went over six minutes without scoring a field goal.
ECU's Maurice Kemp got on the glass for a dunk of a Pirate miss to cut the lead to four and later, Straughn's tip-in of a missed three-pointer cut the Owl lead to one, 63-62 with 3:18 to play.
Darrius Morrow would give ECU a 64-63 lead with a layin. Tamir Jackson's one-for-two performance at the line would later tied the game at 64-64.
Another Straughn offensive rebound would lead to a Kemp layin and give ECU a 66-64 lead with 57 seconds to play. After a Rice miss, Paul's two free throws gave ECU a four-point lead with 30 seconds to play.
Kazemi would get free for a dunk with 19 seconds to play to cut the Pirate lead to two, and the Owls had a final chance when Paul missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Lucas Kuipers' jumper at the free throw line hit the front iron and the Pirates recovered the ball before the buzzer.
With the loss, Rice is now 17-15 and will wait for a possible post-season invitation. ECU improved to 15-15 and will take on Southern Miss in the C-USA Championship's quarterfinals on Thursday.
Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 12 rebounds for his 44th career double-double. Kuipers also finished with 10 points for the Owls. Rice freshman point guard Dylan Ennis equaled a career high with 11 assists.
ECU had four players score in double figures including a 16-point game by Morrow. Straughn had 13 points and 11 rebounds.