GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina has started the year on a seven-game winning streak after capping a 75-66 victory over Cleveland State to close out the Thanksgiving Tournament. The Pirates won the tournament after defeating both Cleveland State and IUPUI. Redshirt sophomore Jada Payne was named tournament MVP after pouring in a career-high 33 points on the final day of tournament action.
Payne shot 58.8-percent from the field as she connected on 10-of-17 field goals, while posting a 66.7-shooting percentage (6-for-9) from beyond the arc. She also added six rebounds and one block, while going 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Payne led a trio of double-figure scorers for ECU (7-0) as Abria Trice registered 20 points and Tatiana Chapple notched a season-high 10 points. Chapple also led the Pirates with eight rebounds, while adding two assists. Junior guard Janesha Ebron dished out a game-high five assists and added as many boards to go along with two points and a pair of steals.
The Pirates out-shot Cleveland State (3-4) 48.3-percent to 46.2-percent from the field, but the Vikings held the advantage from three-point range as they shot 41.7-percent, while ECU shot 40.0-percent. East Carolina out-rebounded the Vikings 37 boards to 24 in the game, and the Pirates also held the edge in assists (16-12), blocks (4-0), and steals (6-5). Cleveland State forced ECU into 17 turnovers, while the Vikings turned the ball over 15 times. However, East Carolina capitalized on the turnover situation as the Pirates tallied 23 points off of turnovers, while Cleveland State scored 16.
East Carolina won the opening tip and Trice quickly drove it to the basket to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. After a three-pointer from Cleveland State’s Kiersten Green, ECU went up 4-3 on a layup from Trice and never looked back. The Pirates held the lead the remainder of the game, although the Vikings managed to keep the contest close. With ECU up 16-14 at 11:34, the Pirates went on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to double digits (24-14). The Vikings countered with an 8-0 run of their own to pull within two (24-22) with 5:41 remaining in the first half. The final few minutes of the frame saw the Vikings close the gap at one on two occasions, but ECU managed to finish the first half on a 5-0 run to take a 34-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Cleveland State out-shot ECU in the first half, 44.0-percent to 41.2-percent. However East Carolina benefitted from 18 points from Payne in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Pirates opened the second half with back-to-back layups from Trice and redshirt junior post Ondrea Shaw to push their lead back to double-figures (38-28). The two teams scored on the ensuing possessions as the score moved to 42-32 in favor of ECU. Payne drained a three-point field goal at 16:38 to spark a 9-0 run that would put East Carolina on top of Cleveland State 51-32, marking the Pirates’ largest lead of the contest.
The Vikings continued to chip away at the Pirate lead and managed to come within seven (51-44) after rattling off 12 unanswered points. The Pirates followed the Vikings’ 12-0 run with a 9-0 run of their own to extend their lead to 14 (60-46). East Carolina pushed its lead to 17 (66-49) after a pair of made free throws off the hands of Trice. But the Vikings would not quit as they went on a 9-3 run and eventually cut the Pirates’ lead back to single digits (72-63) with 2:04 left in the game. Cleveland State pulled within seven (73-66) after a trey from Adesuwa Aideyman with 39 second remaining, but the Pirates put the game away and won by a score of 75-66 to improve to 7-0 on the year.
Cleveland State was led by Imani Gordon who posted a team-best 25 points and seven rebounds. Haley Schmitt added 18 points, while Green chipped in 10 for the Vikings. Aideyman led the team with four assists, while Schmitt recorded three steals.
East Carolina will take a 12-day hiatus for finals and the Pirates will return to action on Friday, December 13, when they take part in the Warhawk Classic in Monroe, La. ECU will open the tournament against Alcorn State at 5 p.m. ET.