HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A quick start for Southern Miss proved too much for East Carolina Sunday as the Pirates dropped a 67-57 decision to the Golden Eagles at Reed Green Coliseum. The Pirates fall to 6-16 overall and 0-9 in the Conference USA play while USM is now 8-15 and 2-8.
Junior Shala Hodges netted 16 points to lead ECU offensively as Chareya Smith and Tatiana Chapple picked up seven rebounds each. The Pirates were held to 31-percent shooting while Southern Miss finished the afternoon at 54 percent from the floor. East Carolina won the rebounding battle 42-33 and produced its best free-throw shooting performance of the season – draining 14 of 15 for 93 percent.
Southern Miss used six points from Nitesha Pierce in the first four minutes to jump ahead 10-2. The Pirates continued to struggle offensively from there, as the Golden Eagles stretched the lead to 17-3 at the 11:59 mark.
Hodges hit a jumper on the right baseline to cap a modest 5-1 run and pull ECU within 18-8, but Pierce answered with a layup to leave the score at 20-8 with 7:37 remaining in the half. East Carolina tried to rally a number of times, slicing the lead to nine on a few occasions. However, a Tanecka Carey layup at the buzzer gave the home team a 36-23 edge at the break.
Hodges paced the Pirates with eight points in the first 20 minutes while Chareya Smith had a team-best five rebounds. Southern Miss shot 58 percent in the period, knocking down 15 of their 26 attempts and limited ECU to 28 percent and just eight field goals. The Golden Eagles also enjoyed a 19-17 advantage in the rebounding column.
Southern Miss’ cushion grew to 16 early in the second stanza, representing Southern Miss’ largest cushion of the game, before Niesha Pierce knocked down a three to make it a 17-point game.
Chareya Smith drained a jumper with 8:59 left that brought the Pirates within 13, however, Jamierra Faulkner converted a layup to cap a 6-0 run. East Carolina made it a 12-point contest when Dana Jones got free on the left side and put in a layup, but there was too little time remaining for ECU to seriously threaten.
The Pirates return to action Thursday at UAB. Tipoff inside Bartow Arena is scheduled for 8 p.m.