GREENVILLE, N.C. – Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch helped the ECU women's basketball team snap a 12-game losing streak with a 71-65 win over Memphis on Tuesday night inside Minges Coliseum.
ECU (4-16, 1-6 AAC) snapped a 12-game losing streak and picked up its first conference win of the season. The Pirates had four different players score in double-figures, led by Taniyah Thompson's 20 points. Dominique Claytor stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Ryann Evans had 12 points to go with six rebounds and four steals of her own. Lashonda Monk struggled from the field, but hit six straight free throws in the final 90 seconds of the game and scored 10 points and handed out seven helpers of her own.
Memphis (10-10, 1-7 AAC) was carried by Jamirah Shutes who scored a game-high 32 points, shooting 5-of-5 from three-point range and making nine of ten free throws. Alana Davis shot 8-of-10 to finish with 17 points of her own.
In the four games before losing to UConn, the Pirates had held second half leads but had given all four away. The same thing nearly happened on Tuesday night. An 11-point third quarter by Thompson helped the Pirates take a 50-42 lead with just 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
However, just two minutes into the fourth quarter saw Memphis cut the ECU lead to just 50-49 and the Tigers took a 54-53 lead with 5:59 remaining in the game.
When the Pirates needed a run to regain control of the game, it was Claytor who stepped up. The redshirt junior scored on two straight possessions for ECU, getting fouled and making a free throw on the first, then knocking down a jumper on the second. After Memphis took it's 54-53 lead, Claytor found Thompson for an open jump shot that put ECU back in front. Claytor again got an assist on a jumper from Evans and then made another jumper of her own. After the two teams traded a pair of free throws, Claytor again came through clutch with a jumper, putting ECU up 63-58 with 3:02 remaining. In that crucial span, Claytor scored or assisted on 11 of ECU's 13 points.
Monk, ECU's leading scorer, had been quiet up until the final minute of the game, scoring just four points and making a single three. However, with ECU leading by one after a 4-0 Memphis run and just 43 seconds remaining, she was able to draw a critical foul and head to the free throw line. The Greensboro native knocked down both tries. After Shutes scored two points for Memphis, Monk was again sent to the charity stripe and again, she made both attempts. Following one Memphis free throw, Monk was fouled for the third straight possession and had the chance to put ECU up by four points with under 30 seconds remaining. Monk nailed her fifth and sixth straight free throws, giving ECU the cushion it neeed to pull out the victory.
ECU's top two scorers, Monk and Thompson, combined for just six points in the first half, but multiple Pirates stepped up. Evans and Necole Hope each had eight points, while Claytor had seven. Tiara Chambers did not score, but she had five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in the first 20 minutes, a stretch that helped set up ECU's eventual win.
ECU finished 24-of-62 (.387) from the floor, 5-of-20 (.250) from three and 18-of-22 (.818) from the free throw line while Memphis was 24-of-49 (.490) from the field, 5-of-14 (.357) from beyond the arc and 12-of-15 (.800) from the charity stripe. Memphis outrebounded ECU 35-29 while the Pirates had a 22-8 edge in turnovers forced. ECU scored 23 points off Memphis turnovers and had a season-high 18 assists.
The Pirates are back in action on Saturday afternoon with a trip to Wichita State.
The 71 points are a season-high for the Pirates. It is just the third time this season that four different Pirates have scored in double-figures in the same game.
The Pirates shot a season-best .818 from the free throw line. The 18 makes are also a season-high.
Claytor's 16 points and seven field goals are new career-highs while her six steals ties her career-best.
Tiara Chambers set new career-highs in steals (2) and blocks (3) while tying her career-best in assists (2).
ECU Head Coach Kim McNeill
Opening Statement: "I am so proud of my team. I think I said it in here on Saturday after the UConn game that we have been getting better. Obviously, the win-loss column doesn't show that, but to be as young as we are, to be as inexperienced as we are, and to be in the losing streak that we were in, a young team can stop fighting and put their hands down and tank it. This team hasn't done that, kudos to them and kudos to my coaching staff for coming everyday bringing energy, not giving up. I can go on and on, we had four people in double figures, we had 18 assists; probably a season high, we had 18 steals, we forced 22 turnovers. Dom (Claytor), I can't say enough about her play tonight.
On Dominique Claytor: "Whenever people ask me about Dom and what she brings to our team, I always talk about that calming factor and just getting us settled in and boy, did she do that tonight. Running the point and really getting us calm and allowing us to get Taniyah (Thompson) and (Lashonda) Monk on the wings where they can free up for some three's. I can't express enough how proud I am of this team and we always say it only takes one to get two. We got one, now the focus is to bring it again tomorrow in practice, keep getting better to see if we can get two."
On the emotional aspect of winning: "Just a relief of finally getting the monkey off our backs. I said that the first four games before we played UConn, we were right in the game. We just had to learn how to win it, not to play to lose, but to play to win, and I thought that's what we did in those first four games. Tonight, we would make our run, they would make their runs, but I thought we did a good job of halting their runs, and then coming back with ours. Just to knock down the free throws down the stretch, it's probably the best we shot all year, 18-22, and I am just so proud of this team."
On the hustle shown by the team: I thought we started off a little lackadaisical. Not with a lot of energy, so we had to call a lot of timeouts to get us going, get us believing. They were trying to prevent us from hitting that wall, just quitting almost. Our hustle doesn't surprise me, that's what we do, day in and day out. They know that as a coach, I don't want to coach effort, I want to coach X's and O's. I don't know if you'll ever see another game where we don't press at all in the half, but sometimes we have to make adjustments. I thought we were wasting energy in the press and not getting anything out of it because we weren't moving. The way we play is high risk, high reward. When we don't bring a lot of energy, it's high risk because you give up easy baskets. For us to sit down and defend in the half court and still be able to force 22 turnovers is growth and gives me confidence that at times, we can take off the press and still cause havoc at half court."
ECU junior guard Dominique Claytor
On how the team handled the UConn loss: "Being able to play against a high ranked team is pretty good for us. It makes you want to play harder; it makes you want to be that competitive against them. Being able to stay with them was good for us and we can just build off that. Coming off of that, we didn't keep our heads down."