Pirates Stifle UCF, 65-58

GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina women’s basketball team built a 17-point advantage in the second half Sunday on the way to a 65-58 Conference USA victory at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates have won three of their last four contests and are now 9-11 overall and 3-4 in league play while the Knights fall to 11-10 and 4-4.

Junior Ashley Clarke topped the offense for ECU, scoring 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting from both the field and the free throw line. Kim Gay and Crystal Wilson also netted double figures with 11 each while both also recorded three assists. Sophomore Shala Hodges returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, nailing three triples to finish with nine points. Additionally, Celeste Stewart turned in a five-assist performance and added two steals.

Wilson’s 11 points off the bench marked the 19th-straight game in which an East Carolina reserve players has scored in double figures. That outburst also helped ECU own the advantage in bench points 25-21.

The Pirates held UCF senior guard Chelsie Wiley to eight points in the game - just the fourth time she has failed to score in double figures this season. Wiley did not convert a field goal until the final minutes of the game, connecting on a three-pointer from the wing to bring her team to within four.

East Carolina shot 48 percent (12-of-25) in the second half to finish at 44.2 for the contest while limiting the Knights to a 36-percent showing (22-of-61). UCF ended with the advantage on the glass 41-36, but ECU grabbed nine offensive rebounds and turned them into 10 second-chance points. The home team also distributed 20 assists on 23 made baskets.

UCF took a 5-0 lead over the first three minutes, but the Pirates responded with four-straight points to make it a one-point game at the 15:14 mark. ECU would eventually take its first lead at 10-8 with 12:11 left in the period when Gay found Ashley Clarke for a layup from the left side.

After UCF tied the score at 10 on a layup, the Pirates went on a 10-2 run down to the 6:52 mark to push ahead 20-12. The advantage would grow to 10, 24-14, when Jean Best dropped in a jumper in the paint but the Knights rallied with six-straight points behind Jelisa Caldwell to pull within 24-20 with 32 seconds left on the clock. Crystal Wilson put the cap on the scoring for the half with a layup as time expired to make it 26-20 at the break.

East Carolina shot 40 percent in the first 20 minutes while holding UCF to 34 percent from the field. The Knights held a slight 18-16 advantage on the glass as D’Nay Daniels recorded a game-high six. The Pirates also shared the basketball, registering 10 assists on their 11 made field goals. Clarke scored a team-best eight points for ECU while Allison Spivey pulled down four rebounds.

The Pirates pushed the lead to 30-20 early in the second half when Stewart knocked down a pair of free throws. However, a layup from Daniels allowed UCF to make it a two-point game at the 17:06 mark, capping an 8-0 run.

Hodges stretched the advantage back to eight with a triple from the corner with 14:53 remaining in the game, but Aisha Patrick responded with a layup to make the score 37-31.

Over the next five minutes, East Carolina limited the Knights to just four points while scoring 15 of its own, including another trey from Hodges. Gay nailed a jumper off of the Pirate fast break at the 9:28 mark, capping the 15-4 run which seemed to put the game out of reach.

ECU would hold its double-digit advantage as the clock ticked under four minutes, but with the Pirates leading 58-47, the Knights rallied with seven-straight to cut their deficit to just four with 1:54 left. UCF was not able to capitalize on the momentum, however, as East Carolina knocked down seven of its last eight free throws to seal the win.

The Pirates will take to the road for their next two games, first traveling to Marshall Thursday. Tipoff from the Cam Henderson Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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