ECU hoops falls to UMass, 88-81

The ECU basketball team traveled to Massachusetts over the weekend to take on the UMass Minutemen.

In what turned out to be a bad day for Pirate athletics, the ECU Men's basketball team lost 88-81 to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The loss dropped the Pirates record to 7-3, while the win for the Minutemen allowed them to finish the same record.

A three-pointer by ECU's Robert Sampson with 1:03 remaining brought the Pirates to within three (80-77), but eight successful free throws by UMass's Chaz Williams in the game's final minute helped the Minutemen to put the game out of reach.

Williams finished with 26 points in the game, a season-high, while adding 11 assists in the ECU loss. Maurice Kemp led the Pirates with 21 points, followed by Robert Sampson with 14 and Akeem Richmond with 11 points.

Though it ended as a close fought game, the beginning of the contest was anything but close. UMass scored the game's first 14 points with four different players to open up a commanding lead. ECU made its first basket, a Kemp jumper, after 4:57 had gone by in the first half.

UMass led for the entirety of the first half, and led by as much as 16 with six minutes to play before halftime. But in the half's final minutes, ECU began to find a rhythm offensively.

Richmond tallied all 11 of his points in this span, including 3 three-pointers, as the Pirates fought to within three (39-36) with eight seconds to play in the half. The Minutemen's Jesse Morgan hit a three-pointer with one second left for UMass to take a 42-36 lead into the half.

ECU remained close out of the gate in the second half, but could never get any closer than the three-point difference. UMass, which nursed a 47-44 lead with 16:01 remaining in the second half, began to turn on the offensive onslaught. In the four and a half minutes that followed the Minutemen went on a 16-0 run in which five different UMass players scored. Williams led the Minutemen with six points during the stretch.

UMass's lead remained in double digit figures until there was about four minutes remaining in the game. The lead was narrowed to single digits by a Kemp layup that made the score 75-66. From then on ECU was able to pull within three before ultimately losing in the final minute.

UMass's Terrell Vinson and Morgan each added 15 points, with Freddie Riley adding 14. Williams, the team's leading scorer, finished the night going 15-for-16 from the free throw line.

The Pirates away game record dropped to 1-3 while their home record remains a perfect 6-0. ECU's home record will be put to the test in its next game on Dec. 29 against Norfolk State in Minges Coliseum. Norfolk State participated in the NCAA Tournament last season.

Tipoff for that game is set for 5:30 p.m.

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