Defense leads ECU women past Grand Canyon, 59-47

GREENVILLE, N.C. – In the best defensive effort of the young season, the ECU women’s basketball team topped Grand Canyon 59-47 on Wednesday night in Minges Coliseum.

Fast Start

For the second straight game, ECU (3-0) quickly jumped out to a lead. The Pirates led 10-2 and 16-5 in the early going, with Destiny Campbell shooting 4-of-4 to start the game while Tamia Hicks added six points of her own. By the end of the first quarter though, Grand Canyon cut the margin to just two.

Johnson Provides a Spark

With the game tied 24-24 and ECU failing to register a field goal for over five minutes of action, the Pirates’ leading scorer Raven Johnson took over the game. First, the junior from Lilburn, Ga., knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key. Seconds later, Johnson picked off a Grand Canyon pass and then fed Justice Gee for a breakaway layup. After a Grand Canyon miss, Gee pulled down a rebound and then returned the favor by finding Johnson for a layup. The ECU lead extended to 34-24 when Johnson picked up her third assist the quarter as she passed to Desiree Corbin who completed an old-fashioned three-point play.

“If we need somebody to get to the basket she can do that,” said interim head coach Chad Killinger. “She has been shooting a good percentage from the three-point line and has a great personality. It’s a kid that you want to see, you obviously want to see everyone do well, she a little bit of an infectious personality and I think people can pick up on that. When a kid plays that well and has that energy level, she makes some big plays.”

Suffocating Defense

In the first quarter, the Antelopes had their way with the Pirate defense, shooting 61.5 percent from the field and knocking down two of five from behind the arc. But in the second and third quarters, the ECU defense locked in. Grand Canyon scored just six points in the second quarter and did not score for the final 4:37 of the period. In the third quarter, ECU was nearly as good, allowing just nine points while allowing Grand Canyon to shoot just 21.4 percent. The defense made the different, as ECU outscored Grand Canyon 33-32 in the first and fourth quarters and 26-15 in the second and third periods.

“I think for one just defensively, our intensity picked up a little bit,” Killinger said. “They shot a real high percentage abut 62 percent in the first quarter so I think defensively, our intensity picked up a little bit and we changed defenses. I think the way the game is played now, I think you can’t just sit in one defense because I feel like teams are able to get rhythm against you and so I felt like we changed defenses and then created some situations where we were able to get out in transition and we got good open looks.”

Leading Lopes

Venla Varis led Grand Canyon with 17 points in the loss, with 15 of those coming from behind the arc. Laura Piera was the only other Antelope in double figures, finishing with 12 points. Piera was perfect from inside the arc, shooting 5-of-5 there while 0-of-2 from three-point range.

Inside the Box Score

Johnson led the Pirates in scoring for the third straight game, as she and Campbell both finished with 12 points….Johnson also finished with a career-high six assists, leading the team in assists for fifth time in her career…Hicks set new career-highs in four categories. The sophomore from Knightdale finished with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting and hauled down seven rebounds in 24 minutes of action…Hicks tied for the team-high in rebounding, as Salita Greene also tallied seven boards. It is the 12th time in her career that Greene has led the Pirates in rebounds and the second time this season…The 47 points scored by Grand Canyon was the lowest total for ECU since the Pirates held SMU to 47 on Feb. 3, 2018, a span of 10 games…ECU outrebounded the Antelopes 42-25, the first time this season that ECU has won the rebounding battle.

Up Next

ECU hosts Kennesaw State on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m., inside Minges Coliseum.