TULSA, Okla. - The fifth-seeded East Carolina women's basketball team found itself down five with six minutes left to No. 4 seed Memphis, but rallied with a game-ending 19-7 run to post a 73-67 victory in the second quarterfinal of the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Tuesday afternoon at the Reynolds Center. ECU picked up its third win over the Tigers in 2009-10.
Conference USA Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-league honoree Brittany Carter scored a game-high 29 points for Memphis, but the Lady Pirates countered with a balanced offensive attack that saw five players score at least nine points, including a 14-point, 10-rebound and two-block performance by sophomore Jean Best - her first double-double of the season.
With the win, ECU improves to 22-9. The Tigers, meanwhile, fall to 17-13. Additionally, the victory matched the second-most single-season wins for the Lady Pirates as the 1980-81 squad posted a 22-7 final ledger.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the first half, but with the score knotted at 29 with 4:03 to go before the break, The Lady Pirates went on an 8-0 run to create some breathing room. However, Nicole Dickson canned a 3-pointer with two seconds to play and ECU went into the locker room on top by just five, 37-32.
East Carolina pushed the lead to double-digits at 44-34 on a Kim Gay jumper 2:23 into the second half, but Memphis used a 17-6 rally over the next 6:45 to take a 51-50 advantage with 10:52 left to play. The Tigers’ lead swelled to as many as five twice – at 55-50 with 8:11 on the clock and again at 59-54 with 6:51 to go – before the Lady Pirates rallied to take a 61-60 lead they would not relinquish - on the strength of a layup and free throw by Best and a Gay 3-pointer with 4:51 left in regulation.
From there, ECU connected on 3-of-5 field goals down the stretch and hit all six of its free throw opportunities to account for the final score.
While Best paced East Carolina in scoring, Kelly Smith was next with 10 points while Gay, Ashley Clarke and Shuanda Ashford tallied nine each. Clarke had five of the Lady Pirates’ 16 assists and four of the squad’s six steals.
ECU shot 50 (25-for-50) percent from the floor in the contest, marking the 13th time this season it has reached the 50-percent plateau. The Lady Pirates also won the battle on the glass, 40-36. Not to be lost in the hot shooting from the field was a 17-for-20 performance from the charity stripe.
East Carolina advances to take on top seed and regular-season C-USA champion Tulane in the semifinals tomorrow at 6 p.m. Both of Wednesday’s semifinal contests, as well as Friday’s championship game will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network with Ann Schatz handling play-by-play duties and Tammy Blackburn providing color commentary.