Richmond leads Pirates to thrilling road-win

BUIES CREEK, N.C. – ECU (11-4) out-gunned Campbell (6-8) at Gore Arena Thursday behind Akeem Richmond's 37 points and 10 3-pointers.

Akeem Richmond took it upon himself to snap East Carolina's two-game losing skid and capture the Pirates' first victory over Campbell since 2010.

The senior sharpshooter tied his career-high of 37 points and 10 3-pointers, which is also a school record, on 12-of-20 shooting (10-of-17 on 3's) to lead the Pirates to a 79-71 victory at Gore Arena Thursday.

"I had it in my mind before we the game even started, before the ball even got thrown into the air that I was going to take over the game tonight," said Richmond. "I went out there and played really hard and I refused to lose."

Although Richmond did his part to provide the bulk of the Pirates' offense, ECU (11-4) clang onto a slim 70-68 lead inside the game's final four minutes due in large part to the efforts of Campbell's (6-8) Reco McCarter, who poured in a career-high 29 points.

Despite its best defender Paris Roberts-Campbell sitting on the bench fouled out, the Pirates clamped down defensively and closed the game on a 9-3 run. Freshman forward Brandan Stith emphatically swatted away a monster block with ECU leading 74-69 to set up a pair of made-free throws that put the Camels away.

But tonight was mostly about Richmond. The six-footer from nearby Sanford made several difficult shots look routine with a large number of his family on hand, including his energetic father Eric, who he said he had to calm down a couple times with his play.

"I thought the ones that he missed tonight were his best looks," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo. "That's how he is sometimes. He makes some of the ones that make you go ‘Oh, my lord.'

"He's got the mentality of a shooter. He thinks the next one is going to go down and that's what he does for us."

As for what his range actually is, Richmond describes it as being, "as soon as I walk into the gym. I'll shoot it from anywhere."

He was ECU's primary source of offense from the moment the game tipped off – quickly scoring the game's first eight points to secure his team an early advantage. The Pirates later gained its largest lead – 26-15 – just over half-way through the first half before McCarter brought the Camels back.

Campbell went on a 12-2 run, fueled by several second-chance baskets, to trim the deficit to one, 28-27. And following three made-free throws by Darius Leonard, Campbell captured its first lead of the game 38-37 in the late stages of the first half and went into halftime leading 39-37.

The second half began with a frantic three-minute stretch that featured five of the game's six lead-changes and a combined five made-three-pointers; Richmond accounting for three of them.

ECU did not relinquish its lead from that point on and Richmond just continued to heat-up – scoring 24 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan certainly had no answers to how to stop him after the game despite throwing many different looks at the Pirates.

"He got some open ones early and I think late he hit some where he was falling out of bounds. I don't know what he drank this morning, but I need some of that," said McGeehan. "He's hard to guard. He's just an exceptional shooter, which we knew coming in."

Richmond had a chance to capture his career-high from the free throw line, where he has hit 87 percent of his attempts this year, but went 1-of-3 in the closing moments and had to settle with tying his marks from Dec. 3 against Fayetteville State.

His performance did set Gore Arena records for points, 3-pointers and 3's attempted as the Pirates wrapped up their non-conference slate. They will open Conference USA-play against one of the league's new members, Old Dominion, on Jan. 11.

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