TULSA, Okla. - The fifth-seeded East Carolina women's basketball team fell victim to a hot shooting top-seeded Tulane squad Wednesday, falling 73-64 in the first semifinal of the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Reynolds Center. The loss snapped a five-game C-USA Tournament winning streak for the Lady Pirates inside the facility.
"I would just like to say that Tulane has a great basketball team and should be considered for the NCAA Tournament, regardless if they win the conference tourney or not," head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener stated. "They are the best defensive team that we have played all season. I was especially proud of the way our freshmen stepped in and really gave us a lift in the second half. I think our season deserves to continue in the WNIT."
The Green Wave (25-6) jumped out to an 18-8 lead, but ECU (22-10) would go on a 15-2 run to pull within 23-20 at the 6:03 mark. However, a Roshaunda Barnes layup sparked a 18-7 spurt to end the half for Tulane as the regular season champions took a 41-27 advantage into the break.
Chareya Smith put in seven points to lead the Lady Pirates in the first 20 minutes, while Kim Gay recorded six rebounds. Smith and Gay combined to shoot 5-for-9 from the field in the half. The Green Wave shot a crisp 53.6 percent while allowing East Carolina 40.7. Tulane also held the advantage on the glass, 20-14.
The Green Wave stretched the lead to 18 in the first four minutes of the second period as Tiffany Aidoo nailed consecutive triples. At the 15:19 mark, Baldwin-Tener subbed in all four freshman and they brought a renewed energy to the Lady Pirate side as they trimmed the deficit to 14.
With Tulane leading 69-50 and time winding down, ECU rallied, scoring eight-straight points and using a Caitlin Thys jumper to make the score 69-58 with 1:36 remaining. Ashley Clarke drained a mid-range shot with two seconds left to make the final margin of victory just nine for the Green Wave.
Thys scored nine points in the tilt, a career-high in a Lady Pirate uniform, while Allison Spivey matched that output on the strength of a trio of three-point field goals. Spivey now owns the single-season ECU record for made triples with 62.
Gay led the Lady Pirates in rebounding with eight, while making four of her eight field goal attempts to finish with eight points. Additionally, freshman Celeste Stewart handed out a team-high four assists.
With East Carolina's C-USA Tournament run now complete, the Lady Pirates will await the WNIT selections on Monday, March 15 to see if their season will continue. The selection committee will announce the 64-team field late that evening.