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Pirates Nip Blazers In Final Minute, 56-55

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – East Carolina survived a furious second-half rally from UAB Thursday, downing the Blazers 56-55 at Bartow Arena to close the regular season. The Pirates now stand at 15-14 overall and complete league play at 9-7 for the second-straight season while the home teams drops to 15-14 and 7-9.

Junior Jean Best netted 15 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds while Chareya Smith added nine. Best is now in sole possession of second-place on the East Carolina career blocks chart with 115 as she recorded four tonight.

The Pirates were just 6 of 23 in the second half from the field, ending the contest at 45 percent shooting, but limited UAB to just 34 percent for the game. The Blazers won the battle on the glass with 41 rebounds to ECU’s 26 but the Pirates were better down low, scoring 28 points in the paint while allowing 18 to the Blazers.

ECU scored the first 16 points of the contest before UAB came back with an 8-0 run to pull within single digits. A three-point play by Best down low upped the Pirate advantage back to 25-10 at the 8:59 mark but Amanda Peterson drained a three and Karisma Chapman followed with a layup to make it 25-15 with 6:49 remaining in the period.

The score stood at 28-17 when Peterson dropped in a free throw at the 4:53 mark, but the Blazers would score just three more points as Gay capped an 11-3 half-ending run with a fall-away jumper from the top of the key.

Best led the ECU offense with nine points in the first 20 minutes on 4-for-5 shooting while also matching Allison Spivey with a team-best four rebounds. The Pirates shot the ball extremely well, knocking down 15 of 23 shots from the field for a 65-percent mark – their best half of the season.

The rebounding battle was dead even at 16, but the difference was indeed the shooting as UAB hit just 25 percent of their tries from the field. Best helped East Carolina dominate down low with the Pirates scoring 18 points in the paint to 10 for the home team. The Pirates also showed great balance, with seven players scoring and five that were credited with two assists.

A three-point play from Kelly Smith made it 47-32 at the 13:53 mark of the second half, but Karisma Chapman brought her team all the way back to within four when she scored eight straight points to cap an 11-0 run and make it 47-43. She would then hit a three as the clock ticked under seven minutes to pull the Blazers to within just one.

ECU went back ahead by five when Gay hit a jumper from a Best pass, but Peterson drained a three to keep the margin at two with about three minutes left. A Crystal Wilson layup temporarily put the Pirates ahead by four, but Peterson hit another three and Khalilah Watson added a layup to tie the score.

Wilson hit one of two free throws, giving East Carolina a 56-55 advantage and UAB the final possession. The Blazers could not get a shot off due to some solid defense, however, as the Pirates sealed their second road win in league play.

With the regular season now complete, ECU turns its attention to the 2011 Buick Conference USA Tournament which is slated for March 9-12 in El Paso, Texas. The entire bracket will be unveiled at the conclusion of the game between Houston and Tulane which will take place Saturday at Houston.


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