MEMPHIS, Tenn. – No. 11 seed East Carolina’s run at the 2012 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship came to an end Thursday as No. 3 seed Tulane posted a 67-51 quarterfinal victory at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. The Green Wave knocked ECU out of the event for the third-straight season. East Carolina ends the season at 12-19 overall while Tulane improves to 21-9 heading to the semifinals.
“I thought we had a really nice run in the second half,” head coach Heather Macy. “ We cut it to seven and got that steal and weren’t able to convert that steal into a score which would have cut it to a five-point basketball game. And give Tulane a ton of credit. They’ve got really good players and they stepped up and made shots and made plays at key moments.”
As a team, the Green Wave hit 45.7 percent of their shots from the field (21-of-46), including an 11-of-21 performance in the second half. Tulane was 9-of-14 from 3-point land against the Pirates (.643) and hit five of its six attempts from beyond the arc following halftime. Defensively, the Wave held East Carolina to a .317 clip (19-of-60).
Tulane raced out to a 12-2 advantage 4:32 into the ballgame and never trailed at any point during the ballgame. A Blagg 3-pointer with 3:57 to play in the frame pushed the lead to 11 and a Snow free throw 35 seconds later made it a 29-17 affair. East Carolina, however, scored the final four points of the half on layups by Celeste Stewart and Chareya Smith to cut the Green Wave edge to eight at halftime.
The Green Wave pushed their lead back to double digits on a Grayson bucket to open the second half, but East Carolina rallied with an 8-4 run to make it a six-point affair at 35-29 with 16:39 left in regulation. Tulane responded by scoring 10 of the game’s next 12 points to make it a 14-point affair and the lead dipped below 10 just once the rest of the way.
East Carolina made it 52-45 when Shala Hodges drained a 3-pointer with 9:32 on the clock. Grayson followed with a trey of her own while Adesuwa Ebomwonyi and Snow added buckets to make it 59-45 and the Pirates would get no closer than 10 over the final seven minutes.
Hodges led the Pirates with 10 points while Smith, Stewart and Kristine Mial added nine apiece. Hodges and Smith shared team-high rebounding honors with five each and Stewart paced the club with four steals and three assists.
“I’m just incredibly proud of my kids and the way that we were able to finish the season strong,” Macy said. “I hate that we couldn’t send our seniors out on a little bit better of a note, but I’m really proud of the response. They have been a really fun group to coach and it’s just sad to see the season end but we want to use this for some momentum going into the off season and preparing for next year’s run.”