GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina jumped out to an early lead and cruised into the finals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
Maurice Kemp had 20 points and 12 rebounds in the Pirates' 81-58 victory over Evansville on Saturday night.
"That was fun and maybe the best we've played all year," coach Jeff Lebo said. "We played terrific tonight with a lot of energy. Defensively, we were alert, and did a great job at all spots."
Robert Sampson added 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Miguel Paul scored 19 points and handed out 11 assists -- giving him 230 for his career to break Brock Young's school record. Ty Armstrong also had 17 points for the Pirates (22-12), who will take on Weber State (30-6) in the championship game Tuesday night.
The Purple Aces (21-15) pulled within one at 9-8 and then East Carolina went on a 22-7 run over a span of 7:19 to take a 31-15 lead -- and never looked back.
Colt Ryan, who ranked 13th in the nation in scoring with 20.4 points per game, was held to just 12 for Evansville.
"Everybody played a hand in this one," Lebo said. "Our crowd was unbelievable. I heard we had to turn people away. That stuns me."
Paul got the sellout crowd going by drilling a 3-pointer to open the game as the Pirates scored eight of the game's first 10 points. The Pirates limited Evansville to 25.6 percent shooting in the opening half, while connecting on 50 percent of their field-goal attempts en route to a 40-26 halftime lead.
"That first half, we had a hard time stopping guys and did not do a good job on the glass," Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. "We missed a bunch of open shots right at the rim. Give East Carolina credit. We knew they were very athletic."
The Pirates' lead grew to 20 inside the first three minutes of the second half and then ballooned to 25 on a vicious dunk by Kemp, who jammed over 6-foot-10 Egidijus Mockevicius, sending Pirates fans into a frenzy.
Evansville made a run to get within 16 with 5:41 left, but the Pirates scored nine unanswered to thwart any comeback attempt by the Aces.
"That's something me and Miguel have talked about countless times, we wanted to make a name for East Carolina basketball," Kemp said. "That's been our main goal. We all focused and spent this whole season grinding it out and were able to make history this year. It's something to be very proud of. I'm proud of my teammates, my coaches, but (by) the same token, we have another game to play.
"We look to bring a championship back to Greenville."