GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina led for the majority of Thursday night’s contest against Houston and used an offensive outburst to post an 83-77 win over the Cougars at Minges Coliseum, the team’s second consecutive triumph. The Pirates are now 8-17 overall and 2-10 in Conference USA play while Houston drops to 2-22 and 1-11.
The 83 points scored are the third most for ECU this season and the highest in league games. The Pirates recorded a campaign second-best 21 assists on 28 baskets with Celeste Stewart handing out seven of the helpers against just two turnovers in her 32 minutes played. Additionally, East Carolina hit nine three-point field goals – the same number it drained against St. Andrew’s on Nov. 13.
Senior Chareya Smith posted a season-best 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go along with five rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Three other Pirates netted double figures offensively with Kristine Mial, Janesha Ebron and Shala Hodges contributing 19, 11 and 10 respectively. Mial just missed a double-double as she grabbed nine rebounds as well as picking up two blocks and a steal. She also extended her streak of games with a three-point field goal made to 12.
The Cougars had the upper hand shooting the basketball, knocking down 26 of their 54 shots to finish at 48 percent, but the Pirates put up 64 attempts and drained 28 of those shots for 44 percent. Houston sizzled from beyond the arc, keeping itself in the contest by nailing 10 of 13 from range. ECU helped itself on the glass, out-rebounding the visitors 45-31, and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds which turned into 15 second-chance points. The Cougars turned the ball over 20 times and East Carolina took advantage by scoring 28 points off those miscues. The Pirates also enjoyed a 10-5 advantage in the steals column.
On the strength of seven early points from Mial, ECU raced out to a 13-2 lead with 2:09 gone. However, Houston responded with a 9-3 run over the next four minutes to pull within five. The Pirate defense clamped down and the home side was able to push the lead back to 11 at 24-13 when Smith dropped in a layup at the 10:12 mark.
The teams traded runs again and East Carolina led 29-19 with 6:41 remaining in the first stanza as Smith converted a free throw. A pair of Stewart tosses from the charity stripe helped the Pirates grow the cushion to 13 at 40-27 as the clock ticked toward the halftime break, but the Cougars whittled the deficit down to eight before a Tatiana Chapple free throw with three seconds left put the ECU advantage back to nine.
Mial paced the Pirates with 13 points and five rebounds in the first 20 minutes while Stewart dished out five assists. East Carolina also knocked down eight of its nine triples, but Houston hit all five of its three-point attempts as part of a 57-percent shooting performance from the field. The Pirates doubled up the Cougars on the glass by a 24-12 count.
ECU threatened to run away with the game as the second half commenced, growing its lead to 53-38 just three minutes in, but a 16-6 positive stretch for Houston made it a five-point game and was capped off by a Mae Woods layup. The Cougars would complete the comeback and take their first lead of the evening when a Danielle Parks trey made it 63-62, but the advantage was short-lived as Bryelle Smith converted a layup on the Pirates’ next possession.
Roxanna Button briefly tied the proceedings with a free throw to make the score 64 apiece. However, Britny Edwards responded with two free throw conversions of her own and put East Carolina in front by four with 6:10 remaining in the game.
A Stewart steal and subsequent layup by Mial at the 2:35 mark provided the knockout punch the Pirates were looking for, as the Pirates were ahead by eight after the sequence. Button hit an improbable three-pointer to make it a six-point margin with 36 seconds left, but time ran out on Houston and East Carolina sealed its second-straight victory.
The Pirates hit the road for their next game, traveling to Tulsa for the first time since the 2008-09 season. ECU will battle the Golden Hurricane in a 2 p.m. tipoff at the Reynolds Center.