Richmond Leads Rally on Historic Night

EL PAS0, TX -- Akeem Richmond's 36 points and 11 3-pointers erased an 18-point deficit in ECU's (17-15, 5-11 C-USA) 79-76 victory over UTSA (8-22, 4-12 C-USA) at the Don Haskins Center Tuesday.

It looked as if East Carolina's season was going to end on a sour note Tuesday night. The Pirates trailed the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners by 18 points in the first half and were nearly two thousand miles away from home in the Conference USA Tournament.

However, senior shooting guard Akeem Richmond had other ideas.

Richmond buried a C-USA record 11 three-pointers for 36 points to fuel an unprecedented 31-6 run and lead the 12th-seeded Pirates to a 79-76 first-round victory in the Don Haskins Center.

"I was definitely playing with a chip on my shoulder because as a senior, I don't want to go home," said Richmond, who also broke the league's single-season mark for 3's (previously 145) amidst his outburst. "I was motivated by that."

Fellow shooting guard Paris Roberts-Campbell added 20 points, which are the most he has scored since Feb. 1, and the Pirates have clinched their first set of consecutive winning seasons since 1997.

ECU advances to face hosting UTEP – the fifth seed in the tournament – Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. The Miners defeated the Pirates 58-47 in the schools' first meeting on Feb. 8. And although the margin wasn't really large, that game was played at Minges Coliseum and will be far different from the atmosphere ECU will experience this time around.

"It's a tough situation for us. Obviously, we're really thin with injuries and having to turn around and play Tim (Floyd's) team here on the road, in a hostile environment, it will be a tough matchup for us," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo.

Lebo's Pirates falling behind in the first half had little to do with them and more to do with what the Roadrunners were doing. UTSA shot over 70 percent from the floor for the lion's share of the first half and hit six of their first seven shots from three-point range.

However, Lebo did not refrain from the zone defense he began running exclusively since January.

"We had not played man(-to-man defense) coming down the stretch. We don't do it, we can't do it. We'll stay in the zone no matter what," said Lebo.

It wasn't until UTSA led 46-28 with 3:14 left in the first half that the Pirates recovered. They closed the half on a 10-1 run and went into the locker room trailing 47-38. Richmond and Roberts-Campbell supplied 28 of the team's points in the opening 20 minutes.

Led by the dynamic duo, ECU's momentum carried over into the second half as it outscored UTSA 21-3 to take the lead 59-52. The duo totaled 18 of those points, but it was four consecutive 3's by Richmond, including one from just inside half-court, that fueled the run.

It would have been easy for the Roadrunners to go away at this point, but they did not. Instead, they rallied back behind their senior sharpshooter Devon Agusi, who poured in 21 points to keep the game tight in the final moments.

After ECU point guard Prince Williams split a pair of free throws, Agusi rushed the ball up the floor, with his team trailing 79-76, and got a decent look at the basket. But his attempt to extend the game fell short at the buzzer and the Pirates survived.

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