The Roadrunners trimmed the deficit to five – 67-62 – inside the game's final three minutes and even though the Pirates' lead was thin, their resolve proved to be much stronger. ECU hit 14 free throws, without a miss, to secure an 81-71 victory and snap its five-game losing streak at Minges Coliseum.
"It was a really good win for us. We haven't won at home in a while, so it was nice to get that," said ECU (13-11, 2-7 C-USA) coach Jeff Lebo. "I was really proud of the way we finished the game and got the ball in the right guy's hands."
The right guy on Saturday was senior shooting guard Akeem Richmond.
Richmond poured in a game-high 31 points, but didn't do so shooting the lights out from three-point range. Rather, he attacked the rim and got to the free throw line, where he made all 15 of his foul shots – a school-record for free throws without a miss.
"We wanted to be there on the catch, and make sure we make (Richmond) a dribbler and not allow him to have open looks, but he's unique. He finds a way," UTSA coach Brooks Thompson said. "I don't want to say he was better than I thought he was … but he did a good job when he was able to get into the lane and draw help.
"If he can get that dribble game and he can do that, then he's a pretty good player."
|ECU freshman Caleb White|
"You still have to come into the game with just as much confidence as you did the last one," White said. "So I stuck with what I knew and it worked well for me tonight."
Early on, it didn't look there would be as much scoring as there was. Both teams struggled to get going offensively in the game's opening minutes. And surprisingly, much of the Pirates' success came in the painted area – they scored 20 interior points and out-rebounded the Roadrunners.
After starting the game 2-for-11 shooting, ECU closed the first half 10-for-17 from the field and went 21-for-35 (60 percent) for the rest of the game. The Pirates broke a 15-15 tie with a 13-3 run, that included their lone 3-pointer of the half, and went into the locker room leading 33-25.
ECU broke away from UTSA in the early stages of the second half. During a 15-3 spurt, the Pirates drilled three consecutive 3's and capped the run with a one-handed tomahawk dunk by Prince Williams, stretching their advantage to 50-32.
A little bit later, freshman Brandan Stith hit a lay-up to give ECU its largest lead of the game, 58-38, with 10:35 remaining. Stith hit all three of his field goal attempts for seven points, while fellow forward Michael Zangari supplied 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Trailing 60-41, the Roadrunners answered with a 10-0 run. Then, two made-free throws by Deon Lewis, followed by an easy steal and lay-in by Jordan Sims, made it 67-62 Pirates, which prompted Lebo to call for a timeout.
"We got out in transition a little bit more and you're at that point right there where you're not sure if you should slow it down or speed it up. You really want to use a little bit of shot clock. We got slowed down and that was probably my fault, wanting to slow it down a little bit," said Lebo.
Prior to tonight, the Pirates' last home win was Dec. 19 against the Virginia Military Institution and their 81 points Saturday are the most they have scored in league-play this season.
ECU will begin its two-game road trip next Thursday at Tulsa. Tip-off time is set for 8:05 p.m. You can find in-game updates on our message boards and on Twitter @InsideECUSports.