SAN ANTONIO, Texas – UTSA snapped East Carolina’s five-game winning streak as the Roadrunners defeated the Pirates, 61-60, at the Convocation Center on Thursday night. With the loss the Pirates fall to 21-4 overall and 9-3 in Conference USA action, while the Roadrunners improve to 13-12 on the year and 4-8 in league play.
The Roadrunners took advantage of the Pirates’ foul trouble as UTSA scored 27 points from the free throw line after ECU racked up 31 fouls and saw two starters in Janesha Ebron and Ondrea Shaw foul out. UTSA’s Tesha Smith tallied 18 points with 10 coming off of free throws, while Kamra King notched 17 points with 13 of those coming from the charity stripe.
Junior forward Shae Nelson led all scorers with 21 points as she went 7-for-16 from the field, 2-for-5 from three-point range and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. Redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while adding one assist, one steal and one block. Shaw finished the contest with a game-high five blocks to go along with four rebounds and three steals.
UTSA out-shot ECU 32-percent to 30.2-percent in the contest. The Roadrunners also held the advantage from beyond the arc as they shot 28.6-percent to the Pirates’ 21.7-percent. Despite, UTSA scoring more points from the free throw line, the Pirates owned a higher shooting percentage as ECU connected on 17-of-20 free throws to shoot 85-percent. UTSA shot 64.3-percent from the charity stripe as the Roadrunners went 27-for-42. East Carolina, however, held the edge in assists, 8-7, blocks, 8-3, and steals, 8-4. The Pirates’ defense also forced the Roadrunners into 18 turnovers.
After an early UTSA bucket to open the game, East Carolina took a 7-2 advantage on five points from Payne. The Pirates led throughout the remainder of the half as they pushed their lead to as many as 10 (28-18) at 2:04 after a Nelson trey. However, the Pirates’ 10-point advantage was short-lived as the Roadrunners rattled off seven straight points to cut ECU’s lead to three (28-25) with just 45 seconds left in the frame. The Pirates went on to take a 30-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the first half, the Pirates shot 34.5-percent from the field as they connected on 10-of-29 field goals. The Roadrunners shot 29.2-percent as they went 7-for-24.The ECU defense was on point as the Pirates tallied seven steals and three blocks in the first half and forced the Roadrunners into 13 turnovers.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair as the two teams traded leads nine times and fought through six ties. The Roadrunners opened the frame with a jumper followed by a made free throw to tie the game at 30, but the Pirates battled back and regained the lead on a jumper off the hands of Tatiana Chapple. The conference foes continued to trade points with each possession and eventually found themselves deadlocked at 57-57 with one minute remaining in the game. In the final minute of action, the Pirates were hampered by fouls resulting in two made free throws from King to give UTSA a 59-57 lead with 31 seconds left to play. After a missed three-point attempt by ECU, King extended the Roadrunners’ lead to three (60-57) after making another free throw to force the Pirates to call for a timeout. Following the break in action, King sunk the second free throw to make it a two-possession game (61-57) with just seven seconds left to play. Nelson gave the Pirates hope as she drained a three with three seconds on the clock, however, East Carolina was unable to get the final shot attempt off before time expired leading to a UTSA victory.
The Pirates look to get back on the winning track on Saturday, February 22, when they take on UTEP in El Paso. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET.