Pirates Put Away Mustangs, 77-70

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Junior Chareya Smith registered a career-high 22 points and East Carolina shot a season-best 58 percent from the floor Thursday to capture a 77-70 Conference USA victory over SMU at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates won their fifth-straight home contest to move to 12-13 overall and 6-6 in league play while the Mustangs dip to 13-12 and 6-6.

In only the third meeting between the teams in Greenville and eighth overall, East Carolina snapped a four-game skid to SMU and downed the Mustangs for the first time since 2007.

Smith was 10-for-14 from the field while adding a squad second-best six rebounds. Another career high was set in the game as Crystal Wilson distributed a personal-best eight assists to go along with 11 points. Leading scorer Kim Gay netted double figures for the 11th-straight time, finishing with 15 on 6-for-10 shooting. Ashley Clarke fell just short of double digits with nine points but shared the ball to the tune of six assists while corralling a team-best seven rebounds.

For the second time in three contests, ECU knocked down 32 field goals to finish with the aforementioned 58-percent shooting display, as the Pirates took 55 attempts overall. Although it put up nine more shots than the home team, SMU hit only 25 to finish at 39 percent. The Pirates found open teammates very well in game, registering 27 assists to offset 23 turnovers. East Carolina also excelled down low, out-scoring the visitors 44-16 in the paint.

SMU scored the first six points of the game, but ECU responded with a 13-2 run to go ahead 13-8 at the 13:50 mark. The Pirate lead grew to as much as 29-16 before the Mustangs cut it to nine with four-straight free throws.

A fast-break three by Celeste Stewart with 3:48 remaining in the period afforded East Carolina its largest lead of the contest at 34-20. However, SMU out-scored the Pirates 8-2 the rest of the half to pull within eight at the break.

Chareya Smith led ECU with 10 points in the first 20 minutes while Ashley Clarke pulled down a team-best three rebounds. Additionally, with four assists in the interval, Allison Spivey moved into 10th on the program career ledger.

The Pirates drained 16 field goals on 29 attempts to shoot 55 percent while the Mustangs drilled nine on 24 tries to produce a 38-percent showing. East Carolina held the advantage on the glass 19-10 and also registered 13 assists. SMU was able to keep close due to a 9-for-12 performance from the free throw line. The Pirates were awarded only three free throws and hit two of those attempts.

A Chareya Smith layup made the score 47-37 at the 15:59 mark of the second half, but the Mustangs scored seven-straight over a two-minute span to draw within three. SMU completed the comeback, edging in front 49-47 before Smith hit a jumper from the key to even the score.

East Carolina answered the Mustangs’ run with one of its own, holding SMU to just four points for nearly seven minutes while scoring 14 to re-establish a double-digit advantage at 63-53. That would be the deciding stretch as the Pirates led by as much as 13 with just over a minute left before the Mustangs ended the contest with a late flurry to make it a seven-point final margin.

ECU returns to action Sunday when it travels to UCF. Tipoff at the UCF Arena is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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