MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - East Carolina came up just short of No. 22 North Carolina Tuesday as the Tar Heels edged the Pirates 65-61 at the Myrtle Beach Convocation Center in the final game of the Carolinas Challenge. ECU falls to 6-4 overall while UNC improves to 8-2.
Four East Carolina players netted double figures in the contest, led by Chareya Smith's 14 points. Shala Hodges, Tatiana Chapple and Celeste Stewart also put in 12, 11 and 10 respectively. Chapple was the top rebounder for ECU, pulling down seven while Stewart, Katie Paschal and Bryelle Smith recorded three assists each. Chay Shegog was the offensive force for North Carolina, powering her way to 19 points.
The Pirates put up 64 shots, converting 23 of them for a 39-percent mark while the Tar Heels used their height advantage down low to shoot 45 percent. Nonetheless, East Carolina played UNC pretty evenly on the boards, giving up 41 rebounds but securing 38 of its own - including pulling down 14 offensive boards as compared to 13 for North Carolina. ECU also committed just 14 turnovers while picking up eight steals and forcing 17 Tar Heel miscues.
North Carolina was whistled for just 12 fouls in the contest as East Carolina was called for 24, leading to a 27-7 margin in free throw attempts for the Tar Heels.
After She'la White hit a jumper to open the scoring, Chareya Smith dropped in a running layup to make the score 13-8 in favor of the Pirates at the 12:53 mark. UNC would respond with a 13-5 run over the next four minutes as Brittany Rountree converted on two free throw attempts to put the Tar Heels in front by a 21-18 score.
The teams played nip and tuck basketball down the stretch of the half as Krista Gross hit a jumper in the paint to tie the score at 27 with just over four minutes left on the clock. ECU would score eight of the final 13 points as Bryelle Smith drove to the left side and hit a fall-away three at the buzzer to afford East Carolina a 35-32 halftime advantage.
Both squads shot in the mid-forty percent range from the field in the first 20 minutes while also ending up even on the glass at 19 rebounds apiece and virtually deadlocked in the turnover column with UNC committing 10 as compared to nine for the Pirates. Tatiana Chapple led ECU with eight points in the period while Chay Shegog poured in 10 for the Tar Heels.
The Pirates kept their lead during the first four minutes of the second half, assuming a 42-40 lead when Hodges hit a three. However, North Carolina pulled back in front and would stay there at the timeout with 7:44 left in the contest, taking a 51-47 lead on a Shegog layup. Shegog then put UNC in front by six at the 5:35 mark when she put in a bucket in the paint to make the score 57-51.
ECU did not go away, as Stewart put in a layup to pull the Pirates to within 57-56 as the clock wound down to 2:57. East Carolina came up with a defensive stop with 46 seconds left and trailing by one, but Krista Gross snuck into the lane and put an offensive rebound back in to give her team a 61-58 cushion. ECU could not quite catch up as the Tar Heels were able to escape.
The Pirates return to action Dec. 28 when they travel to College Park, Md., for the Terrapin Classic. East Carolina will face No. 20 Delaware at 2:30 p.m. at the Comcast Center before facing either No. 5 Maryland or Lafayette the next day.