TULSA, Okla. - Freshman guard Shala Hodges netted a career-high 17 points and led five players in double figures to guide the fifth-seeded East Carolina women's basketball team to a 102-64 win over 12 seed Southern Miss in the first round of the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Monday afternoon at the Reynolds Center. ECU improves to 21-9 overall while the Golden Eagles end their season at 9-21.
“I was pretty pleased with our effort," head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener remarked. "Our team has a lot of players that can step up and make shots. We were balanced today with five players in double figures, including freshman guard Shala Hodges who came off the bench and scored a career-high 17 points. Our bench played well, as they scored 50 points. That is very important to our success – balance.”
The Lady Pirates' 102 points are two more than the previous mark set by DePaul in a 100-75 win over Houston on Feb. 28, 1997. In addition, ECU's 24 assists tie a record set by Louisville vs. Cincinnati on March 1, 1997 and later matched by both Houston against Memphis on March 3, 2001 and Marshall vs. UTEP on March 6, 2009.
East Carolina’s 11 3-pointers rank tied for fourth in C-USA Tournament history and its 64.7 shooting percentage from beyond the arc is third. The Lady Pirates hit 58.9 percent of their shots from the field (33-of-56), a mark that marks ranks second to Tulane’s 62.2 performance (28-of-45) against Louisville on Feb. 28, 1999.
ECU hit the 100-point plateau for the 19th time in program history and second this season (103 against Houston-Baptist). The Lady Pirates recorded their most points and largest margin of victory in a C-USA Tournament tilt, as well as the largest-ever margin of victory over a league opponent. Every player on the active roster scored and had a rebound for the second time this year (Houston-Baptist). Additionally, East Carolina assured itself of a spot in the quarterfinal round for the third time in the last four seasons.
The two teams traded the first 10 points of the contest, but with the score knotted at five 2:18 into the game, ECU went on an 11-0 run and never looked back. The lead swelled to as many as 28 in the opening stanza at 46-18 with 3:34 to go in the half. The Lady Pirates went into the locker room at the break on top 48-25.
Kim Gay and Hodges led East Carolina with nine points in the opening 20 minutes while Allison Spivey and Kelly Smith had three rebounds each. The Lady Pirates had the advantage in shooting (55.2-40.7 percent) rebounding (17-14), assists (13-6) and steals (9-3).
Southern Miss cut the deficit to 17 at 62-45 with 12:57 left in regulation, but that was as close as the Golden Eagles would get the rest of the way. The East Carolina advantage surpassed the 30-point mark at 91-60 on a Hodges layup with 4:20 to go and a basket by Elaine Morgan accounted for the final score.
In addition to Hodges' 17 points, Gay and Chareya Smith added 13 while Spivey and Celeste Stewart put in 10 points each.
The Lady Pirates return to the court tomorrow, facing off against No. 4 seed Memphis at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
“Memphis is a tough opponent," Baldwin-Tener added. "We beat them both times in the regular season, but they will be ready for us. We will need to have another good game from everyone.”