ECU (8-3) captured its eighth win of the season 74-63 against Norfolk State (6-9) Saturday in front of a season-high 5,172 at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates were led by their two senior leaders; Miguel Paul and Maurice Kemp.
Kemp finished two points shy of his career-high with 23 points, while Paul bounced back after a subpar game against UMass with 19 points and 8 assists.
“It was a good win for our team at home after Christmas break,” said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo. “Defensively, we did some nice things.”
Down the stretch, Robert Sampson was solid defensively and finished a rebound shy of a double-double, while adding 12 points. The Pirates limited the Spartans to only 36 percent shooting (24-67), but the visitors managed to keep the game close until the final horn sounded.
In the second half, Norfolk State forward Rashid Gaston cut the ECU lead down to only 48-44 with a dunk, which was followed by a stretch that featured three straight baskets by Kemp.
“It was really key,” said Lebo. “(Those baskets) were huge when they were making that run.”
Leading the way for Norfolk State was junior guard Pendarvis Williams, who scored 15 points and collected 7 rebounds. He is the only remaining starter from last year’s team that upset Missouri in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.
In the end it wasn’t enough for the Spartans.
“I thought both teams played really hard. It was a great opportunity for us,”said Norfolk State head coach Anthony Evans. “ECU took control of the game toward the end and made the plays that were necessary to close the game out.”
With the students on Christmas break and all the travel arrangements that are made this time of year, the Pirates were pleasantly surprised to see such a great turnout at Minges Coliseum.
“It was a great crowd. I know in the past it wasn’t like that,” said Paul. “Just to see the community and the Pirate Nation come out and support us during this time when they could be with family and doing other things is a great blessing and I hope it continues.”
The Pirates will kick-off the new year with home games against Campbell (Jan. 2) and North Carolina Wesleyan (Jan. 5) before beginning their conference slate with a challenging road contest at Memphis.