GREENVILLE, N.C. – Buoyed by a crowd of 3,258, the fifth-largest in program history, East Carolina broke through for its first Conference USA win of the season and snapped a 14-game skid along the way with a 61-57 victory against Marshall Sunday at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates improve to 7-17 overall and 1-10 in league play while the Herd lost its eighth contest in the last nine to move to 13-11 and 4-7.
After trailing 24-21 at halftime, ECU out-scored Marshall 40-33 in the second stanza – marking the first time since the win over Monmouth on Nov. 30 that the Pirates have netted at least 40 points in a single half. East Carolina also reached the 60-point plateau after 14-straight outings below the mark.
“All of the team’s hard work finally paid off today and I am very proud of the ladies’ effort,” head coach Heather Macy said. “This win is something on which we can build going forward.”
For the second consecutive game, sophomore Kristine Mial paced the Pirates offensively as she scored a season-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Senior Chareya Smith posted 16 points and was 4-for-6 from the foul line – including hitting a crucial four of five attempts in the final 2:30 of the game. Bryelle Smith helped the offense flow, posting four of the team’s 15 assists. Additionally, with two three-point field goals in the game, Mial extended her streak of games played with a made three to 11.
East Carolina shot 42 percent from the floor, knocking down 22 shots on 53 attempts while limiting the Herd to just 33 percent (18 of 55). The Pirates also won the rebounding battle 38-36, which was significant since Marshall entered the game out-rebounding its opponents by almost six boards per contest. After shooting just four free throws in the first half, ECU knocked down nine of its 12 tries in the final 20 minutes as well as all six in the last minute of the game.
With the teams tied at five after the opening four minutes, Victoria Wells hit a jumper that capped a 6-0 run for the visitors before Mial drained one of her own to leave the score at 11-7 at the 13:32 mark. Mial then hit a triple which cut the deficit to one, but the Pirates endured a stretch of over five minutes without a point, allowing the Herd to race out to a 20-10 advantage with 9:51 left in the period.
Latiedra Elliott put in two free throws as the clock ticked under five minutes, leaving Marshall’s lead at 10. However, East Carolina’s offense began to awaken while the defense clamped down. The Pirates would out-score the Herd 11-4 over the final 4:53 of the half to pull within three at the break (24-21).
Mial led all players with 14 points in the first 20 minutes while Chareya Smith added six and Dana Jones posted five rebounds. The teams were even from the field, both shooting 33 percent, but ECU enjoyed the slight upper hand on the glass with 19 boards as compared to 17 for Marshall.
A three-pointer by Celeste Stewart gave the Pirates a 26-24 cushion just 1:11 into the second stanza and she would add a jumper to push the advantage to four. However, the Herd went on a 6-2 run down to the 14:16 mark to forge a 34-30 lead. The margin grew to as much as five at 40-35 when Shynisha Johnson hit a pair of free throws with the clock stopped at 11:22, but East Carolina responded with five-straight points to knot the score.
Stewart came through again with just over eight minutes remaining, hitting a three from the left wing to tie the game at 43. Katie Paschal then hit a jumper from the foul line to put the Pirates in front by two. After Shay Weaver answered with a layup on the other end, Paschal grabbed an offensive rebound off an East Carolina miss and hit a fall-away jumper which pushed ECU back in front.
The squads traded buckets over the next two minutes, which left East Carolina with a 49-47 lead with 4:24 left. Chareya Smith then came through on the Pirates’ next possession, converting a layup while getting fouled to afford ECU some breathing room. She would also drain a pair of free throws at the 2:30 mark after Rashedah Henriques hit two of her own to keep Marshall within two.
Smith was not done, however, earning another chance at a three-point play when she dropped in a layup to give the Pirates a 55-49 advantage. Another pair of foul shots by Smith kept the ECU cushion at six points with 58 seconds remaining before Paschal coolly hit two as well to provide an ultimately insurmountable advantage for the Pirates. A triple by Shay Weaver with four seconds left provided the game’s final four-point margin.
East Carolina returns to the hardwood Thursday, hosting Houston at Minges Coliseum. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.