GREENVILLE, N.C. — Akeem Richmond scored 23 of his game-high 30 points in the second half as East Carolina built a 20-point lead in the final period and held off a late UTSA charge for an 81-71 win on Saturday evening at Minges Coliseum.
Keon Lewis led four players in double figures for the Roadrunners (7-15, 3-6 C-USA) with 16 points, while Jordan Sims hit three 3-pointers and totaled 14 points. Hyjii Thomas and Phillip Jones chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. In addition, Edrico McGregor scored eight points and tallied seven rebounds to go along with a career-high six assists.
UTSA shot 41 percent for the contest and racked up 19 assists, which was its second highest total of the season. The Birds totaled 39 points in the paint and collected eight steals.
Meanwhile, Richmond hit six shots, including four 3-pointers, and connected on all 15 of his free throws to pace the Pirates (13-11, 2-7 C-USA). Caleb White added 18 points, while Michael Zangari neared a double-double with 11 points and nine boards.
East Carolina shot 61.1 percent in the second half and 50 percent for the contest. In addition, the home squad held a slight 34-33 edge on the glass and scored 25 points on 13 UTSA turnovers.
Lewis got the UTSA offense going early with a 17-foot jumper and after a free throw from Sims and a dunk by McGregor, the Roadrunners had a quick 5-2 lead.
Richmond would tie the score with a three-point play to ignite a 9-2 run for East Carolina, but the visitors reclaimed the lead with a 7-0 spurt of its own.
George Matthews started the stretch with a layup on a feed from Lewis. Lewis then took a defensive rebound and drove to the basket for a layup while drawing a foul. The junior tacked on the free throw for a 12-11 lead and Sims’ offensive rebound and layup gave UTSA a three-point advantage with 7:48 to play in the first half.
But the Pirates began to catch fire and grabbed the upper hand with an 18-4 run for its largest lead of the period, 29-18, with less than four minutes until halftime.
The Roadrunners would outscore East Carolina 7-4 the rest of the period, but Antonio Robinson’s layup just before the buzzer lifted the home team to a 33-25 cushion at intermission.
Jones and McGregor each scored to start the second half, but Zangari’s jumper started a 15-3 run that put the Pirates ahead 50-32.
Following Paris Campbell’s layup with 10:08 to go, the Roadrunners got back in it with a 21-7 run of their own.
Thomas started the rally with a dunk following a steal by Sims. Sims and Lewis then hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Devon Agusi picked Prince William’s pocket and converted the steal into a layup.
White hit a triple to bring the crowd back to its feet, but Sims answered with a 3-pointer to pull the Roadrunners within nine, 63-54, with 5:39 to play.
UTSA continued to whittle the lead as Lewis converted a layup and hit a pair of free throws for a 64-58 East Carolina advantage.
Richmond then hit his fourth and final 3-pointer, this time with the shot clock winding down. But Agusi drained two free throws and stole the ensuing inbounds pass before finding Sims for a layup as the Birds trailed by just five, 67-62, with 2:41 to play.
That would be as close as the Roadrunners would get and the Pirates salted the game away by hitting all 12 of their free throw attempts en route to the 81-71 victory.
The Roadrunners will return home on Thursday, Feb. 13, for a 7 p.m. matchup with FIU (12-12, 4-5 C-USA) at the Convocation Center.