MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Darrius Morrow scored 16 points and Erin Straughn had 13 points and 11 rebounds as East Carolina defeated Rice 68-66 Wednesday in the opening game of the Conference USA tournament.
With the victory, the 10th-seeded Pirates advanced to the quarterfinals where they will play second-seeded Southern Miss on Thursday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Maurice Kemp, who had 10 points, put the Pirates (15-15) ahead to stay, 66-64, on a layup with 57 seconds left - the game's 13th lead change.
Miguel Paul's two free throws widened the margin to 68-64, but the seventh-seeded Owls (17-15) cut it to 68-66 on Arsalan Kazemi's dunk at the 19-second mark. Paul missed a free throw for East Carolina, but Lucas Kuipers couldn't hit a tying jumper for Rice with 4 seconds remaining.
ECU trailed 60-54 with 8:03 to play following a 10-3 Owl run. However, the Pirates answered with a 10-3 of its own and retook the lead, 64-63, on a bucket by Morrow with 2:23 to play. Tamir Jackson tied the game with a free throw with 1:44 to play before Kemp put ECU ahead to stay.
The Pirates never led by more than four points.
Rice started the game on a 13-4 run to take its largest lead of the game in the first 4:26. ECU proceeded to out-score the Owls 14-4 over the next 3:19 to take its first lead of the game, 18-17, scoring nine straight points on 3s, including back-to-back triples from Paris Roberts-Campbell.
Roberts-Campbell added 12 points for the Pirates, making 4-of- 9 3-pointers, while the team converted 10-of-24 shots behind the arc. ECU shot 42.6 percent from the floor and Rice connected on 51.9 percent of its shots, marking just the second time this season that the Pirates won when yielding over 50 percent shooting to its opponent.
After ECU took a one-point lead, Rice scored the next six points but the Pirates never allowed it to stretch the lead beyond two possessions and trailed by only one at halftime, 33-32, despite being out-rebounded by the bigger Owls, 20-14. East Carolina reversed fortunes in the second half and dominated the battle of the boards 23-10, scoring 13 second chance points and holding Rice to one offensive rebound.
Kuipers and Kazemi scored 10 points each for Rice, and Kazemi had 12 rebounds, for the junior's 44th career double-double.
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