Win, lose, or draw Saturday night, the East Carolina men’s basketball team's 2012-2013 season will go down as one of the best in the program’s history. Twenty-one wins, its first set of postseason tournament wins, and possibly more left to be written.
ECU (21-12) will host the Evansville Purple Aces (21-14) Saturday at 5 pm with a trip to the championship game of the College Insider.com Postseason Tournament on the line.
It will be the last home game at Minges Coliseum for Pirate seniors Miguel Paul and Maurice Kemp.
“Me and Kemp did have a lot of good memories in (Minges) and we knew it had to end sometime. We just want to go out with a win, that’s the big thing,” said Paul.
Kemp had a game-high 20 points in ECU’s 70-58 win against Loyola-Maryland Tuesday. The difference in the game though was the performance of junior forward Robert Sampson, who scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
A game after seeing his night shortened with foul trouble, Paul had an off-shooting night for his standards—2-for-10 from the field—but still managed to finish with 12 points and a game-high 9 assists.
Quietly, junior Akeem Richmond has struggled from three-point range in ECU’s double-figure wins in the last week. He was 0-for-6 on triples Tuesday night and worked inside to score his nine points, while pulling down six rebounds.
Evansville captured a nail-biting 84-83 win against Canisius on Tuesday to advance into the CIT’s final four. Trailing by nine points at halftime, the Purple Aces were led by senior Colt Ryan’s 39 point performance that made him the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Ryan, who averages 20.4 points per game this season, has guided Evansville through a difficult Missouri Valley Conference with a 10-8 league record. Two of those wins were againt Wichita State, who punched its tickets to the NCAA Tournament's ‘elite eight’ Thursday.
ECU coach Jeff Lebo says his team hasn’t faced anybody like its opponent on Saturday.
“(They’re) very different. Not overly big, not overly athletic, but guys really understand the roles on their team and understand how to play the game.”
They know where the ball is supposed to be shot, and its supposed to be shot by Colt Ryan.”
A key to the success for head coach Marty Simmons’ Purple Aces has been sharing the basketball as three of its top four scorers collected over 100 assists on the season. Ned Cox is the only other player—with Ryan—on the roster that averages double figures scoring with 11.0 points per game.
Dating back to Feb. 23, Evansville has won its last three road games. A feat that hasn’t been accomplished by the program since its 1998-1999 campaign.
Whoever wins Saturday will advance to face the winner of Weber State and Northern Iowa on the road Tuesday night for the CIT championship.
To put the Pirates' postseason tournament run in perspective, if Michigan State beats Duke on Friday, ECU will be the last basketball team still playing in the state of North Carolina.
“At this time of year, there are a lot of guys, a lot of my friends at different colleges, who are at home just lying around…(us still playing) says a lot to Coach Lebo and the work we’ve put in this year,” said Paul.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the Pirate IMG Sports Network with Jeff Charles and Si Seymour on the call.