East Carolina has become familiar with tight games at Minges Coliseum. Saturday night was no different when the Pirates hosted the Texas-El Paso Miners.
Deadlocked at 65 with 19 seconds left, Miguel Paul drove into the lane and scored an acrobatic lay-up to put ECU in front 67-65 with 4.4 ticks left on the clock. Paul tallied 15 points in the second half for a team-high 20 points.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Miners’ guard Jacques Streeter drove towards the top of the circle and found Mckenzie Moore—who hit a 35-foot prayer at the buzzer from just inside half-court – to shock the season-high 6,121 in attendance and win the game for UTEP (11-7, 4-1 C-USA), 68-67.
“I feel fortunate,” said Miners head coach Tim Floyd. “I didn’t know (Moore) was going to shoot it from the half-court line. That wasn’t the idea.”
The Pirates (12-7, 3-3 C-USA), who have only lost two games at Minges Coliseum this season (10-2), led for the vast majority of the game but came up empty when the final buzzer sounded.
“(It) was a heart-breaking loss for us. To feel like you have it and have it taken away from you like that is tough,” said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo. “We couldn’t get the ball that we needed to finish off the game and that was frustrating.”
UTEP forward John Bohannon finished with a game-high 23 points and 9 rebounds--including 8 straight points down the stretch, 6 of which came at the free-throw line, to keep the Miners within striking distance.
“Bohannon has been a handful for us to defend. We’ve had hard times trying to guard him. He’s hurt us about every game we’ve played, and he hurt us in this one,” said Lebo.
ECU’s leading scorer, Maurice Kemp, did not start for the first time this season Saturday night after arriving late to a team meeting. Kemp struggled to get going for the lion-share of the evening and got into foul trouble. He finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds – scoring 8 of his points in the second half.
Shamarr Bowden was ejected with 12:32 left in the game after he threw multiple punches at UTEP’s Konner Tucker. Bowden—who missed Wednesday’s game at Alabama-Birmingham—was held scoreless in 8 minutes of playing time.
Robert Sampson finished with a team-high 9 rebounds to go along with his 5 points, but left the game in the second half with a left knee injury. Lebo said he had not been updated on Sampson’s condition or the extent of the injury and said he would not know anything until later.
This season, the narrative for ECU at Minges Coliseum has been to get off to slow start, fall behind by a large margin in the second half, and rally to win close games. That was not the story Saturday.
The Miners scored first to go-ahead 2-0, their largest lead of the game, before ECU responded with a 9-0 run. The Pirates led by as many as 9 in the first half, but went into the locker-room only ahead by a bucket, 30-28.
With 1:25 left in the game, ECU led 65-61, but couldn’t finish the game as Bohannon and Moore served to be too much for them to handle.
The Pirates will try to forget about this one and begin preparing for Wednesday’s showdown with the Memphis Tigers (16-3, 5-0 C-USA), who are coming off of a 73-72 win against Marshall. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Minges Coliseum.
“You have to be able to put these games behind you quickly,” said Lebo. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Marshall Guilmette (8 points, 3 rebounds) and Ty Armstrong (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) each fouled out of the game after playing 19 and 20 minutes respectively.
Moore scored 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds for UTEP, while Julian Washburn finished in double-figures as well with 12 points and 6 boards.