East Carolina rallies, ends UTSA's season in opening round of Conference USA Tournament
EL PASO — No. 13 seed UTSA led by as much as 18 points in the first half, but 12th-seeded East Carolina got 36 points from Akeem Richmond and bridged the halves with a 40-9 run to rally for a 79-76 victory late Tuesday night in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament at the Don Haskins Center.
Devon Agusi hit a season-high five 3-pointers en route to 21 points to lead the Roadrunners (8-22), who saw their first season as a member of C-USA come to an end. All five starters registered double figures as Jordan Sims had 12, while Phillip Jones and Edrico McGregro added 11 each and Keon Lewis chipped in with 10.
UTSA shot a season-high 65.4 percent in the first half but managed just 30.8 percent over the final 20 minutes for a 48.1 mark on the night. The Roadrunners had a 31-25 edge on the glass and a 22-10 advantage in the paint.
Meanwhile, Richmond hit a league-record 11 3-pointers for the Pirates (17-15), who advanced to Wednesday's second round where they will face fifth-seeded and tournament host UTEP. The senior also set the circuit’s single-season triples mark. Meanwhile, Paris Campbell added 20 points for the designated home squad.
East Carolina shot 55 percent in the second half and 48.9 percent in the game.
UTSA opened play at its first C-USA Tournament in style and produced its best first half of the season.
The Roadrunners started the contest on fire and jumped out to a 24-11 lead by hitting nine of its first 10 shots.
After the Pirates scored the game’s first basket, Sims connected from downtown for a 3-2 lead and the Roadrunners did not trail again in the stanza. Two minutes later, Agusi answered a 3-pointer by Richmond with a triple of his own to ignite an 11-0 run that put the Roadrunners up, 19-5.
McGregor pushed the advantage to double digits with a basket and followed with a three-point play before a steal by Jones led to a fast break basket from Agusi. Jones then closed the stretch with a free throw.
Agusi capped the scorching start with a trey and jumper. The lead stayed above 10 and grew to as much as 18, 46-28, as the Roadrunners put together a 10-3 spurt that was capped with an offensive rebound and layup by Hyjii Thomas.
However, East Carolina started its 31-6 rally with three minutes to go before halftime on a pair of Brandan Stith free throws.
The Pirates closed the first half on a 10-1 run, but they still trailed 47-38 at intermission.
East Carolina carried that momentum into the second half and outscored the Roadrunners 30-9 over the first 14 minutes of the period for a 68-55 lead. The Pirates led by 12 with 3:35 left and held an eight-point cushion, 73-65, with 1:40 to play.
Then, it was UTSA which needed to rally, and it did so with four 3-pointers in the final 92 seconds.
Agusi hit a pair in that stretch and the Roadrunners trailed by just three 79-76 with 5.3 seconds to go after Prince Williams hit a free throw.
UTSA had one final chance, as Agusi drove down the court and pulled up for a three that bounced off the front of the rim to preserve the Pirates' victory.