Blair's Double-Double Leads Pirates Past Owls
March 6, 2008
KATY, Texas --- Gabe Blair scored a Conference USA career-best 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead East Carolina over Rice, 75-68, to end a 23-game Conference USA road losing streak at the Merrell Center Wednesday night.
The victory coupled with a Tulane loss to Marshall moved the Pirates into a tie with the Green Wave for ninth place in C-USA. ECU plays at Tulane Saturday night.
Cory Farmer and Sam Hinnant added 12 points each for the Pirates (11-17, 5-10 Conference USA), while Chad Wynn added nine points in the absence of John Fields, who was attending his grandmother's funeral.
Patrick Britton led the Owls (3-25, 0-15) with a career-high 40 points on 14-of-18 shooting from the floor and 12-of-15 from the free throw line. Aleks Perka scored 12 points in the loss.
After trailing by eight in the first half and four at halftime, ECU wasted little time in tying the game less than three minutes into the second half.
Hinnant's first 3-pointer of the night broke a 39-all tie and ignited a 20-8 run. Following a basket by Farmer, Hinnant made his second consecutive 3-pointer and hit a subsequent free throw after being knocked to the ground by Perka.
Blair then scored the next four points before Brock Young scored seven straight points to give the Pirates a 59-47 lead with under 10 minutes to play.
"It was a real gutsy performance in the second half and we did it coming from behind on the road," said Pirate head coach Mack McCarthy. "We did force them into turnovers and I thought we did a good job of not letting them have second shots."
ECU's lead never dipped under seven until the final 30 seconds. Hinnant and Taylor Gagnon combined to make three consecutive free throws for a nine-point lead with 10 seconds remaining. Perka's tip-in at the buzzer determined the final margin of victory.
The Pirates shot 60.9 percent in the second half (14-of-23) and connected made 13-of-15 free throws in the final 20 minutes. Rice nearly matched ECU's second half shooting performance as it made 53.8 percent of its attempts (14-of-26), but only managed nine trips to the free throw line and made five.
ECU shot 87.5 percent at the charity stripe going 21-of-24, including 5-of-6 in the final five minutes.