CULLOWHEE, N.C. - East Carolina held a 10-point cushion at halftime, but allowed Western Carolina to rally and take the lead late in the second half. However, the Pirates outscored the Catamounts 8-1 in the final 3:44 to post an 80-76 win Sunday at the Ramsey Center. ECU improves to 1-1 in 2010-11 while WCU dips to 0-2.
Senior Kim Gay scored in double figures for the second-straight contest, netting a team-best 20 points and converting six of her eight free throws. Junior Kelly Smith also reached double digits with 10 while plucking three steals. On the glass, sophomore Ariana Jackson picked up a squad-high six rebounds to go along with eight points.
The shooting was nearly even, as East Carolina made 27 of 67 shots to produce a .403 mark as compared to a .417 performance by the Catamounts (24-for-58). The Pirates were also beaten on the glass for the second time in as many games as Western Carolina enjoyed a 44-38 advantage. However, ECU helped itself with 16 steals on the way to forcing 23 turnovers while also sharing the ball, reaching double figures in assists at 10.
Additionally, for the third time in the last 35 contests, East Carolina had every player score and record a rebound. The last time it occurred was in the 102-64 win over Southern Miss in last season's Conference USA Tournament.
A steal and layup by senior Allison Spivey provided the first points of the game until Caitlin Hollifield hit two jumpers to give the home team a 4-2 lead. Gay and Spivey would then hit a three-point field goal each as part of a 12-9 run that put the Pirates ahead 16-11 at the second media timeout (11:56).
After the Catamounts pulled within 18-14, East Carolina put together six-straight points to push ahead 24-14 and force a WCU timeout. Five-straight points, including a layup and a free throw by Kaila'Shea Menendez, made the score 24-19 with 7:16 remaining in the half. The Pirates would outscore the Catamounts 18-13 the rest of the way to the break as eight ECU players scored in that timespan.
WCU went on an 18-10 run out of halftime to make it a two-point contest at the 14:45 mark. However, a three-point field goal by Gay extended the Pirate advantage back to eight at 56-48 with 12:33 remaining.
East Carolina held the home team at an arms length for the next four minutes, but Menendez hit a free throw that produced a 63-63 deadlock at the 8:06 mark. The Catamounts then took a three-point advantage, making three of four free throws, but Gay kept the Pirates close with four-straight free throw conversions as Western Carolina held a 68-67 lead with 6:16 left.
At the 5:16 mark, Jackson put ECU back in front 72-70 with a three from the top of the key. After the teams traded three-point plays, Gay then gave the Pirates the advantage for good with a layup. East Carolina's defense held from there, holding the Catamounts to just one free throw down stretch to seal the road win.
ECU returns to the hardwood Friday, Nov. 19, playing host to UNC Wilmington and kicking off a four-game homestand. Tipoff from Minges Coliseum is slated for 8 p.m.