Houston closed out Hofheinz Pavilion with a 73-51 victory over East Carolina on Sunday. The Cougars (21-9, 12-6 American) out-scored the Pirates 27-9 over an 11-minute stretch in the second half to pull away after ECU (14-17, 6-12) trailed by just one at halftime. The Cougars found the hot hand and turned up their defensive effort in the second half as they connected on 43 percent of their attempts and forced 12 turnovers, while holding the Pirates to 22 percent shooting.
An alley-oop dunk by Bertrand Nkali started an 8-0 run that gave the Cougars a 48-37 lead with 11:55 to play. Rob Gray then scored four straight points before Danrad Knowles capped the spurt with an 18-foot jumper. The Pirates got within eight at 48-40 only to see Houston score seven straight.
Jeremy Sheppard was the only Pirate to score double figures, dropping in 12 points … He also dished out three assists to set the ECU freshman record for most assists in a season (98), surpassing the record of 97 set by Japhet McNeil during the 2003-04 campaign.
Gray scored 24 points off the bench on 9-of-19 shooting, including 6-of-12 in the second half. He also handed out a team-high four assists in 33 minutes of action.
ECU finished its third season in The American with a conference record of 6-12 in ninth-place … Andre Washington blocked three shots to set the ECU single-season record for blocked shots with 92, surpassing the mark of 90 set by Moussa Badiane during the 2003-04 season … Washington became the sixth player in the brief history of The American to block 90 shots in a season … Caleb White made his 250th career 3-pointer … Kentrell Barkley has his career-long double figures scoring streak snapped at 11 games, finishing with eight points … Houston out-rebounded East Carolina by 19, scoring 22 points off 19 offensive rebounds … The Cougars forced the Pirates into 12 second half turnovers after ECU only committed four in the first half and scored a total of 21 points off 16 turnovers.
East Carolina will face Temple Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the First Round of the 2017 American Basketball Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The game will be televised on ESPNU.