GREENVILLE, N.C. - Junior guard Greg Parham scored a career-high 23 points, but East Carolina rallied midway in the second half to post an 80-68 win over VMI Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.
VMI led 38-36 at halftime and the game was still tied at 45-45 minutes into the second half before the hosts went on an 18-9 run to take control. The Keydets pulled within 70-64 after back-to-back layups by junior guard Miles Lewis with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, but could come no closer.
Parham converted 9-of-21 shots from the floor including three 3-point shots to surpass his previous game-high of 14 points set twice last season.
The Keydets also got double figures scoring from sophomore Jake Stephens who scored 10 first half points before being limited with foul trouble in the second half.
ECU’s Jayden Gardner, one of the few returning starters on a squad that has 11 newcomers, scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Pirates and guard Tristen Newton added 20 points.
ECU shot 53% for the game and held a 45-33 advantage on the boards.
VMI freshman guard Kamdyn Curfman made his starting debut and finished with eight points including a pair of 3-pointers. Fellow freshman Keydets Louis Tang and Travis Ever chipped in nine and three points, respectively.
VMI shot 45% in the first half and drained six 3-pointers, but were limited to 30.6% from the field after halftime and were 3-of-13 from behind the arc.
The Keydets return home to face Marist College Friday night at 7 p.m. in the home opener at Cameron Hall.
Quotes from Head Coach Dan Earl:
“I was proud of our guys for fighting. I though we really battled. The rebound margin was really close for three quarters of the game. Their size really started to hurt us down the stretch, and they got a couple of and-ones. It’s one of those things where we have to be smarter, too. We did a good job getting in the lane, but we have to make better decisions on when to shoot a layup or floater and when to kick it out.
“It’s a little bit of a learning process. We were able to get some freshmen some minutes but you could see they were moving a little fast, as well, which is to be expected.
“I thought Greg Parham did a good job and was vocal and had good command presence out there. He was able to get by his man quite a bit and was able to make a few threes and he got into the lane and made some floaters. I was really proud of his effort and his growth.
“Credit East Carolina. They did a good job of pressuring but not fully denying, so we didn’t get many back cuts against them. They did a good job of pressuring and forcing us out away from the basket too much to our liking.”