Old Dominion 81, East Carolina 70

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Old Dominion made its Conference USA debut a success Saturday, upsetting longtime rival East Carolina 81-70 at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, N.C.

Guard Keenan Palmore scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Monarchs. Guards Aaron Bacote and Dimitri Batten added 18 and 12 points respectively as ODU is now 1-0 in conference play and 7-9 overall this season.

ODU has now won the last five meetings and seven of the last eight against East Carolina, its former rival in the CAA, and increased its all-time series lead between the two schools (which dates back to 1966-67) to 37-14.

East Carolina came into the game off to a great start in non-conference play, winning 11 of its first 15 games. The Pirates, who were led by 21 points from guard Paris Roberts-Campbell, are now 11-5 and 0-1 in C-USA play and have lost their last five conference season openers and 11 of their last 13.

Even worse, ECU has not won a home game against ODU since Jan. 17, 2001.

Others scoring in double figures for ECU were guard Akeem Richmond (14), 12 points off the bench from guard Petar Torlak and 11 points from forward Michael Zangari.

The difference in the game was field goal shooting. The Monarchs canned 56.4 percent of their shots (31 of 55), while East Carolina sank 22 of 55 for a 40 percent clip. ODU also outrebounded ECU 36-29, including 26 boards on the defensive side of the ball.

Both teams played a fairly even first half, ending in a 37-37 tie at intermission. But in the second half, ODU began to pull away, outscoring Eastern Carolina 44-33.

East Carolina managed to get as close as one point, 51-50, at 14:16 on a three-pointer by Akeem Richmond, but the game would quickly be taken over by Old Dominion, which went on a 12-2 run to make it 63-52 at 10:35 on a layup by Richard Ross.

ECU would close to nine, 76-67, with 3:18 left on a free throw by Prince Williams, but that would be as near as the Pirates would get to ODU. Williams would score the final three points of the game on free throws.

ECU finished 14 points below the 84.5 ppg scoring average it had coming into the game, while ODU scored 16 points more than its 65.4 ppg average prior to the game.

Ironically enough, ECU freshman Brandan Stith, who managed just one point in the game, played in a contest for the first time against his father Bryan, who is in his first season as an assistant coach at ODU. The elder Stith is a former NBA veteran and remains the all-time scoring leader at Virginia.

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