GREENVILLE, N.C. – Antoinette Bannister hit the game-winning three-pointer and Bre McDonald logged her fifth double-double of the season as East Carolina downed SMU 58-57 for its first American Athletic Conference victory of the campaign Saturday afternoon inside Minges Coliseum.
Team Records: East Carolina (10-6, 1-2 AAC) | SMU (10-5, 1-1 AAC)
Bre McDonald notched 16 points and 10 rebounds while adding a game-high six assists. Bannister was the hero of the game, hitting a banked three-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation, and was second on the team in scoring with 12 points. It marked the fourth time this season Bannister has accounted for the game-winning points for ECU. Kristen Gaffney was the third Pirate in double figures with 11 points to go along with five rebounds.
SMU’s Alicia Froling had a game-high 22 points in the Mustangs’ first loss of AAC play. She shot 66.6 percent from the free throw line (8-for-12) and was 7-for-12 from the field while grabbing a game-best 15 rebounds. McKenzie Adams added 15 points and five rebounds for SMU.
East Carolina shot 43.1 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown in the win. The Pirates held SMU to 27.1 percent from the field and forced 20 Mustang turnovers. SMU won the battle on the glass, outrebounded ECU 46-34 and had 21 offensive rebounds. The Pirate bench contributed 18 points in the win.
Head Coach Heather Macy
“Well, a really good team win. I am very proud of the kids. They continue to fight and continue to play for a full 40 minutes. They had multiple moments of adversity where they could have easily quit and they didn’t. It took until the final possession but I’m so thrilled to get a really good win over a very good SMU basketball team.”
Antoniette Bannister on her banked three-point shot:
“When I let it go, I saw the way it kind of curved and I was like ‘oh yeah, it’s going to bank in’.”
Macy on SMU free-throws and final seconds of the game:
“I’ll be honest with you, we’ve been in those moments before. The experience that we were able to take coming back and telling those kids they understand. They’ve lost a game like that before. The importance was boxing out and being disciplined. Typically, when you send a team to the free throw line 27 times, and your starting point guard fouls out with seven minutes to go, things don’t look how you would hope. So I am thankful to get this win today and I am really going to credit our preparation and our scouting. Our coaches have done an amazing job getting our team ready. The athletes committed to defending. Typically, when you shoot it better you defend better so our kids have really been able to have the singular focus on ‘we will defend, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Macy on the weather and change in game time:
“Well we had a tough little turnaround [from UConn] but we only get so many of these games left. That was kind of my message to the team. The only positive I could figure out was that cold weather means it’s basketball season and we are thankful to be here. This was the first adversity we have really seen this season as a team so we were talking about what to do through adversity. I just saw the snow storm as another little speedbump as far as you don’t quite get the atmosphere that you would typically have in Minges. I think our kids accepted that challenge and did a great job with it.”
Bannister on getting over the hump and snapping a three-game losing streak:
“It means a lot. I’m very happy and I kept telling my teammates ‘we can’t start this league 0-3’. We kept saying we have to give ourselves our own energy because we didn’t know how many people would be able to come out to the game because of the storm. I felt like we did a really great job keeping the energy up. After the game some of us were shedding tears; they were tears of joy for finally getting that first conference win and getting back on the winning side.”
East Carolina dashed out to an early 6-0 lead before SMU got on the board with just under seven minutes to play in the quarter. The Pirates forced three Mustang turnovers in the first four and a half minutes of action, which limited SMU’s scoring opportunities. SMU tied the game with 15.8 to go on a pair of free throws by Kamray Mickens. Bannister threw up a three-pointer to give ECU a 17-14 lead but the Mustangs countered as the buzzer sounded for a 17-17 tie at the end of the quarter. East Carolina shot 40 percent from the field and held the visitors to 31.6 percent. Gaffney, Gabrielle Holston and McDonald all scored four points in the first frame while McDonald grabbed six rebounds.
The Pirates opened the second quarter without a basket for the two and a half minutes but a big trey by Kadidja Toure gave ECU a 20-19 lead at the 7:18 mark. Bannister added a three-pointer of her own at 5:16 to give the Pirates a 23-19 lead. East Carolina went on a 10-0 run that ended with an SMU layup by Adams at 1:25. Despite a late 7-0 run by the Mustangs to close the frame ECU held on to lead 27-26 at halftime. The Pirates shot 33.3 percent in the second quarter and an impressive 66.7 percent from behind the arc (2-for-3).
ECU maintained the lead most of the quarter but a layup by Adams with 1:08 to play gave SMU a 43-42 lead. The Mustangs ended the quarter on a 7-0 run and forced three East Carolina turnovers in the final two minutes of action. McDonald continued her dominant performance scoring a team-best eight points (4-for-5) in the third quarter and was flirting with a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds as the Pirates entered the fourth stanza. As a unit, ECU shot 53.8 percent in the third quarter and held SMU to 50 percent from the field.
The Mustangs scored first in the fourth quarter to give SMU its biggest lead thus far of four points. McDonald answered for the Pirates once more making it a one-possession game. East Carolina went on a 7-0 run to take a 51-50 lead with under four minutes to play. A pair of free throws by Frazier gave ECU a 55-22 lead but with 31 seconds to play, Morgan Bolton drained a three-pointer tying the game 55-all. Coach Macy burned her final timeout and drew up a play with 18 seconds to go and Pirates possession. Bannister banked a three-pointer giving the pirates a 58-55 advantage. Adams was fouled on SMU’s final shot attempt from behind the arc and after missing the first of three free throws, she made the final two. ECU held on for a 58-57 win.
ECU searches for its first road win of the American Athletic Conference season Wednesday, January 11 at Temple. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. in Philadelphia and will be streamed live on the American Digital Network.