GREENVILLE, N.C. - Already winning its first ten contests at Minges Coliseum this season, the East Carolina women's basketball team set a new program record with an 11-0 home start as it recorded a comprehensive 76-59 victory over Memphis Saturday evening.
The Lady Pirates improve to 17-4 overall, continuing its second-best start in school history, and 6-2 in Conference USA play. Meanwhile, the Tigers had a four-game winning streak come to an end as they fell to 12-8 overall and 5-2 in league action.
With the win, ECU pulled a half-game ahead of Memphis for first-place in the C-USA standings. The Lady Pirates have won 23 of their last 25 home affairs. Additionally, the squad matched the 2008-09 team with 17 regular season victories while producing the best eight-game start to C-USA play (6-2) since joining the league prior to the 2001-02 campaign.
Kim Gay notched her second double-double of the season and third of her career, scoring 12 points to go along with 11 rebounds while three other Lady Pirates netted double figures.
Ashley Clarke put ECU ahead 2-0 before Savannah Ellis tied it with a putback at the 17:45 mark. Both teams could only manage three combined points over the next two minutes, as the Tigers led 4-3 with 15:26 left in the half.
The Lady Pirates picked up their play on both sides of the ball as the clock wore down to show 10 minutes, going on an 11-1 run to take a 15-5 lead. Memphis pushed back, drawing within seven at 28-21 at the 4:27 mark. However, Clarke nailed a triple with 27 seconds left to cap a 9-3 spurt and make the score 37-24 at the break.
Clarke reached double figures in the first 20 minutes, scoring 10 points while Kelly Smith added eight on the strength of a pair of three-point field goals. Kim Gay was the top rebounder in the period, pulling down six. Brittany Carter led the Tigers with 14 points while Ramses Lonlack contributed six boards.
East Carolina shot very well, draining 15 of its 23 shot attempts to produce a percentage of 65.2 while Memphis was as cold as the icy weather outside, hitting just eight field goals on 34 tries (23.5 percent). The Lady Pirates also held the edge on the boards 20-18 and in assists 8-1, but turned the ball over 15 times.
ECU extended its advantage quickly, scoring the first nine points of the second interval to go ahead 46-24 before Carter hit a trey at the 17:00 mark. Gay stopped the mini run with a putback and Allison Spivey hit a trey to put the Lady Pirates back up by 21.
A few mintues later, Gay completed her double-double by grabbing her 10th rebound and scoring her 10th point on a free throw just seconds after as the clock went under 12 minutes. The Tigers drew within 18 on two Carter free throws, but Chareya Smith put East Carolina back up by 20 with 8:38 remaining in the game.
Nicole Dickson cut the Memphis deficit to 17 with a layup at the six-minute mark. However, she picked up her fourth foul on the next play as Spivey hit two free throws. Clarke then found Kelly Smith all alone under the basket, as the junior beat the Memphis press and knocked in her 10th point of the contest with 4:40 left.
The Tigers pulled within 14 in the final minute, but it was as close as they would get as a Shala Hodges layup provided the final 17-point margin.
Clarke led all Lady Pirates with 16 points while Spivey put in 15 and Kelly Smith netted 10. Jean Best picked up her season-high with seven rebounds and Ariana Jackson pulled down five for the second-straight game. Furthermore, Clarke notched eight assists to bring her weekend total to 18 and her season average to 5.6.
ECU shot 55.8 percent in the affair, marking the 10th time this year that it has reached the 50-percent plateau. Memphis improved slightly in the second half, but still ended the game at a 29.3 clip, the second-lowest of any Lady Pirate opponent in 2009-10. East Carolina also owned positive margins in rebounding (48-37), assists (18-9) and blocks (4-1). The Lady Pirates turned the ball over 25 times but the Tigers could only put in nine points off of those miscues.
Having completed its short two-game homestand, ECU hits the road for a pair of league contests at Southern Miss and UCF. The Lady Pirates stop first in Hattiesburg, Miss., Thursday Feb. 4 when they take on the Golden Eagles at Reed Green Coliseum in an 8 p.m. tipoff.