GREENVILLE, N.C. – A stagnant shooting performance by East Carolina in the second and third quarters Saturday afternoon allowed Tulane to pull away for a 61-45 victory in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams at Minges Coliseum.
Team Records: East Carolina (9-5, 0-1 AAC) | Tulane (10-4, 1-0 AAC)
Kristen Gaffney paced the Pirates offensively once more, scoring a game-high 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field to go along with a team-best eight rebounds, while Khadidja Toure netted nine points and pulled down three rebounds. Courtnie Latham ended up with 12 points and eight rebounds to lead the Green Wave while leading scorer Kolby Morgan finished with 10 points.
ECU hit just 17 of 58 attempts from the field to shoot a season-low 29.3 percent while Tulane converted 23 of its 61 for 37.7 percent. The teams played to a near dead heat on the glass as the Green Wave recorded 42 rebounds to the Pirates’ 41. Tulane forced 17 East Carolina turnovers while committing 14 itself. The Green Wave bench also out-scored the ECU reserves by a 23-6 margin.
Head Coach Heather Macy
“First off, Tulane is a very good basketball team. I learned a lot about our team over the past week. It’s really the first time we’ve had adversity going into a season. When you have so many brand new players, you’ve got to coach through that a little bit, see what you can expect through it. We had a lot of things we can learn from tonight’s game and improve on moving forward.”
On shooting woes in the second and third quarter:
“Well we haven’t had one of those nights yet this season. We’ve been shooting the ball really well but that’s going to happen and it happened at a really bad time. It kind of built going into the third quarter. So when you look at that and you didn’t even get to double digits in shooting percentage and it’s a seven-point game, you feel like you are lucky to keep it within that at half. I think the fourth quarter said a lot about the character of our team. They continued to fight and I think did a way better job. They showed their heart and showed a lot of effort.”
On the defense:
“They (Tulane) have two first-team all-conference players on their basketball team so Tulane is a very good in our league. They have very good players. I thought the game plan was right on point. We had a couple miscues here and there but ultimately we executed the game plan as we wanted to. Had we shot the ball better, it may have been a different result.”
On compartmentalizing expectations for Wednesday’s game at UConn:
“Well I think we’ve got a lot of kids that have never been there before, which I’m not sure that it helps or hurts us. We will give them a day to get their legs back under them. It’s been an interesting time given the time off for practice, with Christmas and kind of getting this back going. They need that day off and then we’ll turn the page and look at what’s next.”
On who will step up long term offensively:
“Well I think we’re pretty sure that Kristen is who we’ve got to throw the ball to over and over and over. Then we’ve got to have consistent perimeter play as far as who’s going to shoot the ball every single night and as we get that, and that is established, I think that we’ll be way better.”
Tulane knocked down a pair of three-pointers to build an early 6-0 lead before an Antoinette Bannister triple capped a 7-0 run that put East Carolina in the lead by one at the 7:17 mark. The teams traded buckets as the Pirates regained a one-point edge it would not relinquish the rest of the period. Another triple by Bannister afforded ECU its largest cushion of the quarter at 18-12 with 1:06 on the clock before Leslie Vorpahl drained a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four heading to the second stanza.
A missed jumper by Gabrielle Holston to start the second frame was the first in a quarter that East Carolina made just one of 12 attempts from the field. The lone make, a Gaffney layup, had the Pirates enjoying a 20-16 advantage with 7:19 to go before the half. ECU would score just two more points from the charity stripe in the remaining time as the Green Wave carried a 29-22 lead into the intermission.
A layup by Toure sliced the Tulane edge to 29-24 early in the stanza, but those were two of only six points scored by the Purple and Gold in the quarter. That allowed the Green Wave to take its first double-digit lead of the afternoon at 37-26 and conclude the quarter ahead by 14 at 42-28.
Gaffney provided a spark to begin the final period, stealing the ball and putting in a layup to make the score 42-30. East Carolina turned up the defensive heat from there but could only come as close as 13 the rest of the way as Tulane was able to seal its sixth-straight win in Greenville.
ECU continues league play Wednesday, Jan. 4, with a matchup against the nation’s No. 1 team UConn. The Pirates and Huskies will tip off at 7 p.m. inside the XL Center in Hartford.