GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina women's basketball team continued the second-best start in program history Sunday, cruising past UCF 73-62 at Minges Coliseum. The Lady Pirates are now 14-2 overall and 3-0 in league play for just the third time since joining Conference USA in 2001-02. The Knights dropped their third-straight contest to fall to 3-8 overall and 0-2 in conference action.
"We beat a very good basketball team today in UCF," head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said. "Emma Cannon is a great player and we did a good job on her today. I was really happy with the crowd again, the students especially. They started to make some runs against us in the second half but the fans were loud and really helped us through it. We shot the ball well today and really clamped down on their inside game as the second half wore down.
"It is great to be 14-2 and that really speaks to the hard work our players put in during the preseason. We have been really balanced this season and it is nice to see."
The 11-point margin of victory marked the first time that the Lady Pirates have won three-straight C-USA regular season games by double figures. ECU won its ninth-straight home contest and is 9-0 at Minges Coliseum this season. The Lady Pirates have also won 21 of their last 23 home affairs.
Jean Best recorded two blocks in the contest to move into a tie for 10th-place on the East Carolina career ledger. She now owns 62 in 47 games played with the Lady Pirates and 15 this year.
Both teams got off to a hot shooting start, as they combined to go 9-for-11 from the field, but it was ECU who grabbed the early 13-6 advantage at the 15:40 mark. However, Marshay White scored four points in a 7-2 run that pulled UCF to within 15-13 with 11:35 left in the half.
A 7-2 run, capped off by an Ariana Jackson three-pointer, pushed the Lady Pirates ahead as the score stood at 22-16 at the third media timeout. After a Kim Gay layup gave East Carolina its first double-digit lead of the game, the Knights cut the deficit to 29-23 with five-straight points at the 4:12 mark.
UCF further cut into the Lady Pirate lead, using a three by Chelsie Wiley to make the score 31-28. But ECU scored six of the last eight points of the half, including a buzzer beater from the left baseline by Allison Spivey, to take a 37-30 advantage into the break.
Ashley Clarke netted a team-high 12 points in the period to go along with six assists, while Gay also put in double figures (10). A trio of Lady Pirates - Clarke, Jackson and Crystal Wilson, each pulled down two rebounds. Clarke also recorded four steals.
Each squad shot the ball extremely well, with East Carolina converting at a .652 clip while the Knights produced a .619 mark. It marked the first time this season that an opponent has shot over 50 percent in the first half. The Lady Pirates also had the advantage in rebounding (10-7), assists (10-5) and steals (10-7). It was a sloppy half, as UCF committed 17 turnovers as compared to 16 for the home team.
ECU jumped ahead by 12, its largest lead of the game, when Spivey hit a jumper at the 16:59 mark, but the Knights began to chip away at their deficit, using an 8-1 run to make the score 46-41. However, a free throw by Jean Best capped off a 16-7 spurt for the Lady Pirates that essentially put the game away. Five players scored in the run, while Spivey, Jackson and Kelly Smith each nailed three-point field goals.
Two Clarke charity tosses gave East Carolina its largest advantage of the contest at 73-54 with just 1:43 remaining in the game, but the Knights scored the last eight points of the game when Baldwin-Tener made a wholesale substitution, leaving the final score at 73-62.
Clarke notched her second career double-double and second of the season, scoring 19 points to go along with a personal-best 11 assists. The sophomore also flirted with a triple-double, setting a new career high with six steals. Spivey and Gay also contributed double-digit scoring efforts, netting 12 and 10 respectively. Jackson was the top rebounder for East Carolina, grabbing seven to go along with her second-straight eight-point game.
The teams cooled off after the half from the field, but the Lady Pirates shot .490 percent while UCF produced a .471 mark. The Knights got the better of the rebounding, but only slightly, as they recorded 31 to ECU's 28. Meanwhile, the Lady Pirates had the distinct advantage in assists (17-9) and blocks (5-0). Neither squad held on to the ball well at all, as they combined for 60 turnovers with the Knights committing 31 of them.
East Carolina now embarks on a three-game road trip through Texas, starting Friday Jan. 15 at Houston. Tipoff between the Lady Pirates and Cougars is slated for 8 p.m. at Hofheinz Pavilion.