GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina held Rice to just six field goals and 18-percent shooting in the second half Sunday en route to a 66-55 Conference USA victory at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates snapped a four-game skid, improving to 7-10 overall and 1-3 in league play while the Owls fell to 10-8 and 2-2.
Jean Best was a force down low in the contest, scoring a season-high 17 points and hitting 6 of her 8 shots from the field as well as five of six at the free throw line. Chareya Smith and Kim Gay also reached double figures, putting in 12 and 11 respectively. On the glass, Best grabbed a season-high nine rebounds and was matched by classmate Crystal Wilson who added six points and a steal.
With a triple in the contest, senior Allison Spivey is now just six away from taking over sole possession of first place on the program career ledger. She currently owns 172. Spivey also scored seven points, moving her career total to 916.
ECU drained 25 of their 58 attempts from the field to finish with a 43.1-percent shooting mark while limiting Rice to just 29.7 percent (19-of-64). The Pirates also won the rebounding battle for the second-straight contest, grabbing 47 as compared to 36 for Rice. Additionally, for the second time this season, East Carolina shot more free throws than its opponent as the Pirates nailed 13 out of 18 against the Owls’ 11 of 14 showing.
Both teams got off to a hot start from the field, hitting four of their first eight field goal attempts. A pair of ECU three-point field goals was the difference in that stretch as the Pirates grabbed a 10-9 lead at the 14:50 mark.
With the score tied at 12 after the squads traded buckets, the Owls used eight-straight points from Jessica Kuster to edge in front 20-18 with 7:28 remaining in the half. East Carolina held Rice to just two points over the next three and half minutes while Jean Best took over and scored six points to push the Pirates in front by that margin with time winding down.
A string of eight consecutive points enabled to Owls to take a two-point advantage at the 1:48 mark, but Chareya Smith scored the final four of the period, including a jumper with three seconds remaining, as ECU led 32-30 at the break.
Chareya Smith led the Pirates with 10 points in the first half while Best pulled down five rebounds. East Carolina shot slightly better than the visitors, hitting 14 of 33 shots (42.4 percent) while Rice knocked down 13 of 31 for a 41.9 mark. The Pirates also hit the glass hard, grabbing a 22-16 rebounding advantage which included seven offensive rebounds.
Allison Spivey provided an offensive spark to begin the second half, scoring four-straight as part of an 8-2 run which put ECU in front by eight. After a jumper by Ashley Clarke made the score 46-36, the Owls rallied behind Morgan Mayse who scored five points in an 8-0 run to pull Rice to 46-44 with 12 minutes remaining.
Rice eventually took the lead when Mayse hit a pair of free throws at the 5:31 mark, but Gay provided the pivotal moment of the tilt when she ended a five-minute Pirate scoring drought with a three from the top of the key which put ECU in front 52-51. The Pirates allowed the Owls just four more points and one field goal the rest of the way as Rice missed its final six of seven attempts. An offensive rebound and put back by Wilson gave ECU the lead for good at 54-53.
East Carolina will now enjoy a full week off before traveling to Hattiesburg, Miss. next Sunday for a matchup with Southern Miss. Tipoff at Reed Green Coliseum is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.