After 44 minutes and 57 seconds of elapsed game-time, Saturday night’s contest was still not decided. Deadlocked at 85 points apiece, Miguel Paul penetrated towards the basket and set up a wide-open Corvonn Gaines for the game-winning three pointer with 3 seconds remaining in overtime. Thus sending the 4,954 in attendance at Minges Coliseum into a frenzy.
“I knew Miguel was going to make a play and he found me in the corner,” said Gaines. “Then, I just let it go.”
It was Gaines lone field goal attempt of the game and his first game-winner at any level.
The Pirates (10-5, 1-1 C-USA) erased a 17 point second half deficit to defeat the Central Florida Knights (11-5, 1-1 C-USA) 88-85 to capture their first Conference USA win of the 2012-2013 season.
Gaines, one of the team’s senior leaders, has seen a lot of these types of games slip away for ECU during his tenure.
“I’m really happy for Corvonn Gaines. Nobody deserves to make a shot more than (Gaines),” said Pirates head coach Jeff Lebo. “It was great for a senior to be able to do that.”
Three other seniors played instrumental roles in the comeback; Maurice Kemp, Shamarr Bowden, and Paul each finished with 16 points, as did Ty Armstrong.
Trailing 72-63 with 4:38 remaining in regulation, the Pirates turned to Bowden- who hit back-to-back treys to draw ECU within striking distance at 72-69.
The game was eventually equalized when Paul drove the baseline and acrobatically scored a lay-up with contact and converted on a three-point play. Following two made free-throws by Kemp with 59 ticks left, the Knights got off the mat and responded with a Keith Clanton bucket to tie the game at 76-76 and force overtime.
In the extra frame, it was Bowden draining another three to put ECU in front 85-83. But just as he did at the end of regulation, Clanton scored another game-tying basket with 14 seconds left, which set up the dramatic finish.
In a losing effort, Clanton scored a game-high 36 points while Tristan Spurlock tallied 23 points; both career-highs. The Knights lost its star point-guard Isiah Sykes in the game, who averaged 15 points per game coming into tonight’s play. Sykes only played 19 minutes and the extent of his injury is unknown.
In the first frame, the Pirates led 18-10 before the Knights stormed back with a 10-2 run to tie the game. Things didn’t get much better as the visitors closed the first half on a 22-7 run, while dominating the glass 30-11, and entering the locker room with a 36-27 lead. In the second half, the Pirates would outrebound UCF 23-16.
Robert Sampson collected his fifth double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
ECU will return to action Wednesday when they host Conference USA leading Houston (12-3, 1-0), before going on the road to face Marshall and Tulsa.