GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina women’s basketball team edged out Florida Atlantic, 61-58, in a defensively charged Conference USA opener at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday night. The Pirates held the Owls, who currently lead the league in scoring offense with an average of 80.3 points per game, to a season-low 58 points in the contest.
With the victory, ECU improves to 13-1 (1-0 C-USA) on the year, while Florida Atlantic drops to 10-4 (0-1 C-USA). The Pirates are now the winners of 21 straight home matches as they have not lost a game in Greenville since November 17, 2012.
The Pirates’ defense held the Owls to just 29.1-percent shooting (16-of-55) in the game and 27.3-percent (6-of-22) from beyond the arc. Florida Atlantic’s defense was solid as well, limiting ECU to a 34.7 field goal percentage (25-for-27) and just 18.8-percent from three-point range (3-for-16). East Carolina tallied 13 steals in the game and out-rebounded FAU 56-39. The Pirates’ rebounding advantage led to the hosts scoring 23 second chance points, while the Owls netted only eight.
Offensively, redshirt junior guard Abria Trice led the Pirates with a team-best 16 points and seven rebounds, which tied her season-high. Trice shot 50-percent (7-for-14) from the field and connected on both of her free throws. Redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne registered her fourth double-double of the year as she posted 13 points and 10 boards. Junior forward Shae Nelson recorded her third double-figure performance of the season with 10 points to go along with four rebounds and a career-high three steals. Junior forward Tatiana Chapple grabbed a season-high nine rebounds in the game and also added four points, a season-best three steals, and two assists. Redshirt junior post Ondrea Shaw contributed nine rebounds, two points, a pair of assists and a game-high three blocks.
Trice started the game with back-to-back jumpers as ECU took a 4-0 lead and did not allow Florida Atlantic to score a field goal until the 13:31 mark when Aaliyah Dotson registered a layup cutting the Pirates’ lead down to one (4-3). The low-scoring contest saw FAU take a 14-13 lead with 7:24 on the clock, but an 8-0 ECU run would force the Owls to call for a timeout with the score 21-14 in favor of the Pirates with 4:29 remaining in the half. With East Carolina up by seven, Florida Atlantic closed out the first half on an 8-2 run to cut ECU’s lead to one (25-24) at halftime.
The battle continued throughout the second half as the two teams exchanged leads six times and fought through four ties. Following a 38-38 tie, the Pirates rattled off seven unanswered points, highlighted by a three-point basket and a layup from Nelson, to take a 45-38 lead at 11:36. Despite the Owls’ efforts, including a 6-0 run which cut ECU’s lead back down to one (45-44), East Carolina continued to hold off Florida Atlantic. With just 20 seconds left in the contest, FAU’s Kimberly Smith drained a three-point field goal to make it a one-point game (59-58). However, junior guard Janesha Ebron came through in the clutch and sank a pair of free throws to give ECU a 61-58 win.
Florida Atlantic’s Latavia Dempsey led all scorers with 18 points while adding four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Briah Blakely (12 points) and Smith (11 points) also scored in double-figures. Smith led the Owls in rebounds with eight to go along with a game-high four assists and a pair of steals.
East Carolina will travel to Miami, Fla., to take on FIU on Saturday, January 11, at 6 p.m. Live stats and video will be available on FIUSports.com.