GREENVILLE, N.C. - The Tulsa Golden Hurricane held off a late rally by East Carolina on its way to a 70-67 Conference USA victory Saturday afternoon inside Minges Coliseum. The Pirates (9-6, 0-3) got within two points of tying the score in the second half, but the Golden Hurricane (9-9, 2-2) hung on for the victory behind the strong play of Jordan Clarkson and Kodi Maduka.
Tulsa raced out to a 22-4 advantage behind 11 points from Clarkson, including a trio of three-pointers. East Carolina struggled early offensively, beginning the game two-of-13 from the field. The Pirates responded by connecting on eight of their next 10 field goals as Darrius Morrow and Maurice Kemp led the comeback.
Despite the sluggish start on the offensive end, ECU ended the opening half hitting 12 of its final 17 field goal attempts, trimming the deficit to 40-33 by halftime. The Pirates finished the first half shooting 46.7 percent.
Tulsa rode the hot hand of Clarkson, who was perfect from the field and the free throw line in the opening frame. He made five three-pointers and four free throws on his way to a 19-point effort before intermission.
The Golden Hurricane grabbed the early lead behind an impressive shooting performance before cooling off by missing 11 of their final 17 attempts from the field. Tulsa shot a staggering 77.8 percent from the three-point line in the opening twenty minutes.
Morrow led all Pirate scorers at the break with 10 points.
Miguel Paul and Paris Roberts-Campbell knocked down consecutive three-point field goals to trim the Golden Hurricane lead to 59-56 with just over seven minutes remaining. Paul finished the game with 13 points after being held scoreless in the first half. Tulsa responded as Maduka and Scottie Haralson connected on baskets to extend its lead to 64-56. Maduka finished with 17 points, all coming in the second half.
A pair of Morrow free throws trimmed the Golden Hurricane lead to 64-58. After a driving layup by Morrow, Kemp knocked down a pair of free throws to cut the Tulsa edge to 64-62 with 2:11 left. Tulsa made three free throws to push its lead back to five, but Paul came off a screen to drill one from long-range as the Pirates again trailed by two. Maduka answered with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Paul hit a pair of free throws to pull ECU within three with 36 seconds left.
Clarkson missed both of his free throw attempts and ECU had one final chance to send the game into overtime as the team trailed 70-67. Corvonn Gaines misfired on a three-point attempt, but Kemp kept the possession alive by grabbing an offensive rebound. The Pirates had another shot, but Kemp's contested try from the corner caromed off the glass, preserving the victory for the Golden Hurricane.
Kemp finished the game with 10 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season and fourth in the last six games. Morrow led all Pirates with 18 points. Since being held scoreless against Charlotte December 3, Morrow has scored in double figures in each contest, a streak which currently stands at nine.
Clarkson finished with a game-high 23 points.
Tulsa continued its hot shooting in the second half and finished the game eight-of-12 in three-point field goals, a clip of 66.7 percent. The mark is the highest by any Conference USA team in a league game this season.
Neither squad was able to grab an advantage on the glass as both pulled down 34 rebounds. The Golden Hurricane finished the contest with a 17-13 advantage in assists. Both teams were impressive from the free throw line as ECU shot 82.4 percent from the charity stripe. Tulsa finished the game 18-25 from the line, a 72.0 percent mark.
East Carolina returns to action next week as it travels to El Paso, Texas, January 18 for a league contest against UTEP. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.