No. 21 Tar Heels hold off Pirates 93-87

Akeem Richmond shook off the early nerves and nearly helped East
Carolina complete a big comeback at North Carolina.

The 6-foot guard scored all of his season-high 17 points in the
second half, making five 3-pointers in Saturday’s 93-87 loss to the
No. 21 Tar Heels. That included a pair of 3s in the final minute
that helped the Pirates get as close as four points after trailing
by 18 with about 7 1/2 minutes left.

”I’ve just got to give credit to my teammates,” Richmond said.
”I just relaxed, took my time and knocked down my shots.”

Richmond came in averaging about eight points per game off the
bench. He missed his only two shots in six first-half minutes
before turning it on after halftime.

With Richmond rolling, the Pirates inched closer and closer in a
game that was once slipping away.

”We had a lot of energy as a team,” Richmond said. ”We were
just nervous when we first got out there. The butterflies were out
when we got out there for the second half. We started playing and
not thinking so much.”

For North Carolina, James Michael McAdoo scored 19 points to
lead five players in double figures.

P.J. Hairston added 18 for the Tar Heels (8-2), who emerged from
a weeklong break due to fall exams with their third straight
victory. North Carolina shot 55 percent in the first half to build
a 16-point lead at the break, but the Pirates – coached by former
UNC guard Jeff Lebo – outplayed the Tar Heels through much of the
second half and made it a tough run to the finish.

East Carolina (6-2), an instate program making its first trip to
Chapel Hill, outscored the Tar Heels 61-51 after halftime.

Lebo played for Dean Smith and then-assistant Roy Williams at
UNC from 1985-89, and even played in the first game in the Smith
Center as a freshman in January 1986.

He had coached against his alma mater once before, losing 85-59
here while at Tennessee Tech during the 1999-2000 season. The
Pirates made this one much closer after a slow start with a
tenacious performance.

After trailing 42-26 at the break, East Carolina played more
aggressively and got into the double-bonus at the foul line by
midway through the second half. The Pirates kept trading baskets
with the Tar Heels down the stretch and inching closer before
Richmond knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, the
second bringing East Carolina within 89-85 with 26.6 seconds
left.

Dexter Strickland answered with a pair of free throws to push
the lead back to six. Then, after East Carolina’s Marshall
Guilmette’s layup, Leslie McDonald had a slam with 10.5 seconds
left that ultimately sealed the victory.

Still, there was plenty for Williams to feel frustrated about in
this one – and some of that showed midway through the second
half.

Less than a minute after the Pirates had pulled to within 47-40
with 14:26 left, Williams – who typically hoards his timeouts –
burned one and spent the entire stoppage screaming at his flat team
from one knee.

His team eventually responded with a burst, running off a 7-0
run to rebuild some cushion and later take a 71-53 lead on Reggie
Bullock’s layup with 7:16 left. But the Pirates didn’t go away.

East Carolina shot 53 percent in the second half, including
6-for-13 from 3-point range.

There was a moment of silence before the game due to Friday’s
school shooting in Newtown, Conn.