HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The East Carolina women's basketball team picked up its 20th win of the season Wednesday evening and clinched at least fifth-place in the league standings, knocking off Marshall 75-70 at the Cam Henderson Center. The Lady Pirates are now 20-9 overall and finish league play at 9-7 while the Herd dips to 14-15 overall and end conference action at 6-10.
ECU recorded its first win in Huntington since joining Conference USA prior to the 2001-02 campaign. The Lady Pirates also tallied consecutive conference road victories for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Jean Best tied her career high in the contest, scoring 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 efficiency from the line. Kim Gay also notched double figures with 13.
Marshall jumped out to a 9-6 lead at the 14:11 mark thanks in part to five points by Tynikki Crook. However, ECU held the Herd to just two points over the next eight minutes to take a 22-11 advantage. The Herd stayed within eight for a majority of the way, but the Lady Pirates heated up from beyond the arc, hitting three triples in the last 3:43, including one from Allison Spivey with just two seconds left, to assume a 39-24 lead at the break.
Best led the offense in the first 20 minutes, putting in nine points while Gay added seven. Ashley Clarke was tops on the glass, pulling down seven boards while Shala Hodges scored six points on two three-point field goals. Additionally, fellow rookie Celeste Stewart recorded six assists, setting a career high in the interval.
East Carolina torched the nets in the period, shooting 53.6 percent and converting 15 of 28 attempts from the field. The Lady Pirates also held the advantage on the glass 21-12 and in the assist column 12-6. The visitors also helped their cause from deep, nailing five treys. ECU did commit 11 turnovers, but Marshall produced nine of its own.
The Herd cut into the lead in the first four minutes of the second half, outscoring the Lady Pirates 9-4 to make the score 43-33. Marshall continued to pull closer, as Tynikki Crook took over and got her team to within 52-48 at the 11:49 mark. However, Crook would foul out as the clock ticked towards five minutes, allowing ECU to go inside to Best who helped the Lady Pirates hold a seven-point advantage with 3:05 to go.
East Carolina did not allow the Herd to get closer than four the rest of the way as it sealed the road victory, its third in conference play this year.
Clarke pulled down nine rebounds while Best fell just behind with seven. Additionally, Stewart ended up with seven assists and a personal second-best nine points.
The Lady Pirates shot 54.2 percent in the game, marking the 11th time this year they have surpassed the 50-percent plateau. ECU also won the battle on the glass 32-27, despite allowing 15 offensive rebounds. The Herd attempted 12 more shots but only outdueled East Carolina by one in field goals made, 27-26. The Lady Pirates also produced a strong showing from the charity stripe, knocking down 18 of their 23 tries for 78.3 percent.
East Carolina's regular season is now complete. The Lady Pirates will learn their seeding and opponent for the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Tournament after tomorrow's remaining league contests. If Rice can knock off Houston, ECU will grab the fourth and final first-round bye and claim fourth-place. If the Cougars triumph, however, the Lady Pirates will be the fifth seed and take on the 12 seed in Monday's first round.