No. 6 Duke survives resilient Pirates

Durham, N.C. -- ECU (4-1) rallied from 18 points down against No. 6 Duke, but fell short, 83-74, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday.

The East Carolina men's basketball team gave the No. 6 ranked Duke Blue Devils everything they could handle Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But in the end, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker proved to be too much for the Pirates and Duke (4-1) held on, 83-74, to advance in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

"That was a great game" said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "East Carolina was terrific because we were good. In fact, we were terrific…We could not have had a better opponent, a more classier opponent and a better game to build on than we did tonight."

When Duke hit a shot, ECU (4-1) always had an answer.

The Pirates were fueled by a 13-2 run that trimmed the Blue Devils' lead to 45-39 and nearly took the lead inside the game's final seven minutes, but freshman forward Brandan Stith couldn't complete a lay-in at the rim.

Hood ended ECU's dreams of gaining its first-ever road win against a top-10 opponent by scoring eight straight Duke points in the last 3:10 of the game. He finished with a career-best 30 points and shot a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line. Parker supplied 21 points and a game-best nine rebounds.

Although, the Blue Devils remain an unscathed 21-0 against the Pirates all-time, this is the closest ECU has gotten to winning since 1974.

"We can draw a lot from this. Our kids playing on this stage, in this tournament, we don't get a chance to do this that often," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. "I think we can get some confidence from that and then we have to be able to build upon it."

In order to stay in the game, the Pirates spread out their scoring. They had four players score in double-figures – led by sophomore point guard Prince Williams' career-high 15 points – and had 17 assists to only 10 turnovers. Also, ECU went 19-of-20 from the foul line after missing 14 attempts against Norfolk State on Monday.

"We knew they liked to deny the wing and when Akeem (Richmond) is out there, they are hugged up on him and it gave us a lot of room to operate. We just wanted to attack them, get to the free throw line and finish," said Williams.

If playing inside one of the college basketball's most intimidating atmosphere's wasn't enough, Duke couldn't miss, literally, in the game's opening stages. The Blue Devils hit their first 11 attempts due in large-part to junior point guard Quinn Cook's play. Cook had 11 points and seven assists in the first 20 minutes alone in route to his first career double-double (14 points, 10 assists).

But the Pirates survived the first offensive flurry from Duke. Trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, they began to engineer yet another rally. ECU closed the first half on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 43-32 going into the locker room.

"I think to start the game, we were a little shell-shocked," said ECU shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell, who finished with 11 points and a team-best eight rebounds. "Once we started getting a few stops and saw the ball go through the basket on our end more, I think that just fueled our fans and our bench. Everybody just got into it and we realized we could play with these guys."

The Pirates limited Duke to just 33 percent shooting in the second half and were given a boost from Richmond. The six-foot senior sharp-shooter scored 10 of his 13 points during the rally after being bottled up for the lion-share of the first half. Louisburg College transfer Antonio Robinson had his best offensive game as a Pirate – finishing with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Duke now advances to Madison Square Garden for the later rounds of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournaments against an opponent to be determined. As for ECU, it is uncertain where they will be playing next week or who it will be against.

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