GREENVILLE – As conference warm-up games go, Saturday’s night matchup against Division III N.C. Wesleyan was not the toughest one East Carolina’s men’s basketball team has played.
However, the Pirates will head into their Conference USA opener at Memphis on Wednesday on a high note after pounding the Battling Bishops, 91-60, in Minges Coliseum behind another stellar effort from Maurice Kemp and a second consecutive solid game from Ty Armstrong.
Kemp scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and recorded a career-high six assists to go along with three steals and three blocked shots.
Armstrong set a new career high in points for the second consecutive game, finishing with 14 and eight boards. The Pirates (9-4) are hopeful the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Armstrong is rounding into form with league play on the horizon.
“Things are coming to me,” said Armstrong, who was 7-of-8 from the field. “I feel like I still have a long way to go, especially with the level of competition coming up next, but I feel like I’m getting prepared and I’ll be ready when the time comes.”
After having to sit most of the first half due to foul trouble, senior point guard Miguel Paul finished strong against N.C. Wesleyan (7-5), scoring all 13 of his points after halftime and adding five assists and three steals.
Akeem Richmond was the third Pirate in double-figure scoring with 10 points and Shamarr Bowden – who started for the first time this season – added nine on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
After Bishop Eddie Stokes hit a free throw that tied the game 26-26 with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first half, ECU reeled off a 15-0 run – capped by a Bowden 3 at the 3:54 mark – that made it 41-26. N.C. Wesleyan closed the half with a 7-3 spurt to make it 44-33 at halftime.
The second half was all East Carolina as the Pirates outscored the Bishops, 47-27, and took their biggest lead when Yasin Kolo hit a layup with 35 seconds to play that made it 87-52.
“It’s nice to wrap up the nonconference part of your schedule with a win,” ECU third-year coach Jeff Lebo said. “The first half I didn’t particularly like, especially defensively, against a pretty good player in (Wesleyan senior Brandon) Givens. Givens is averaging 28 points a game. ... I don’t care what level you are. If you score that amount of points, you’re a pretty good player.”
Givens scored a game-high 23 points for the Bishops but had only six in the second half. Josh Morrison added 11 points for Wesleyan, which gave up 33 Pirates points off turnovers and was outscored in the paint, 42-14.
N.C. Wesleyan freshman C.J. Burney, who graduated from Winterville South Central, drew one of the bigger cheers of the night when he hit a 3-pointer to complete the scoring.
Contact Tony Castleberry at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.