GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – Despite trailing by 13 early in the fourth quarter, the ECU women’s basketball team roared back to beat Tulane 53-50 on Saturday night in Minges Coliseum.
ECU (9-19, 6-9 AAC) was led by Lashonda Monk, who finished with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and nine steals. It is the second time in four games that Monk has racked up at least nine steals, making her the first player in ECU history with multiple nine-steal games in the same season. Dominique Claytor finished with her third double-double in four games, recording 10 points to go with 11 rebounds. As a team, ECU forced a season-high 34 Tulane turnovers and scored 34 points off those Green Wave miscues.
Tulane (12-16, 7-8 AAC) was led by Krystal Freeman, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. No other Tulane player scored more than six points. The Green Wave had a massive 53-28 edge on the boards, scoring 14 points off second chances.
After a first quarter that was light on offense, the teams combined for just 19 points and did not score for the first three and a half minutes, Tulane began to exhert control on the game. The Green Wave started the second quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 19-10 lead. ECU fought back to trail just 25-21 at the half, but Tulane started the third on an 8-2 run to get the lead back to double-digits and led 41-30 after three quarters.
A Tulane jumper to open the quarter gave the Green Wave a 13-point lead. But the Pirate defense came alive and not only clamped down on Tulane’s offense, but also helped lead to ECU field goals.
ECU rattled off a 9-0 run over the next three minutes, highlighted by triples from Claytor and Necole Hope. Tulane finally ended the run when Freeman made a short jumper, but the Pirates again went on a run. Back-to-back field goals from Hope and Monk got ECU back within two and the Pirates took the lead when Monk turned a steal into an old-fashioned three-point play. Tulane turned the ball over immediately and Claytor was able to feed Monk for another fast-break layup, pushing the lead to 48-45.
Freeman got a layup on the ensuing Tulane possession to cut it the deficit to one, but both teams went cold. After Freeman’s field goal at 2:26, neither team scored for more than two minutes. The Pirate defense forced five straight turnovers while protecting that one point lead before Claytor finally got sent to the free throw line with 15 seconds to go. The junior guard made one of two, but the Pirates got an offensive rebound which led to a pair of free throws from Monk.
Despite leading by four with 14 seconds to go, ECU had to sweat out the final moments. Kaila Anderson made a three-pointer with three seconds remaining and Monk was then sent to the free throw line once again. Both of her free throws were good, giving ECU a 53-50 lead. Tulane had one final look to tie the game, as Anderson took a shot from more than three-quarters court that had the right trajectory, but hit the front of the rim and bounced away.
ECU finished 21-of-63 (.333) from the floor, 4-of-21 (.190) from three and 7-of-11 (.636) from the free throw line. Tulane was 21-of-56 (.375) from the field, 5-of-21 (.238) from beyond the arc and 3-of-9 (.333) from the charity stripe.
The Pirates will finish out the regular season on Monday night when they take on Cincinnati.
Monk now has 308 steals in her ECU career, extending her ECU record as well as giving her the AAC mark as she passes UConn’s Gabby Williams.
Monk is also second at ECU in single-season steals as her 117 steals passes her 2018-19 season in which she finished with 116 takeaways.
Monk needs six steals to tie Toina Coley’s record of 123.
ECU moves to 7-1 on the season when Claytor scores at least 10 points.
Prior to the game, ECU honored Tamia Hicks and team manager Holden Poole. Hicks will earn her ECU degree in May after just three years in Greenville.
Head Coach Kim McNeill
Opening Statement: I’m sure that was an exciting game to watch. Tulane, they’re a good team; they have a lot of different weapons. They played hard. We didn’t come out to play the way I thought that we would open the game. I told them in the locker room that they make me go crazy before we can start playing with some energy. I’m super proud of the way we finished out that fourth quarter; holding them to single digits and having our best scoring quarter of the game. We had a lot of great things on the stat sheet, and we obviously have some things that we have to continue to improve upon, and that’s rebounding. Giving up 53 rebounds in a game, that’s tough. Monk gets nine steals, Claytor gets a double-double, we turn them over 34 times, we get 34 points off their turnovers, and we get 19 steals. All and all, if you look at those stats, we pretty much did who we are, and that’s turn them over and score off that. I’m proud of that, but we got to get over having those lulls where we get those scoring droughts against a really good team like Cincinnati, that’s going to burn you.”
On the takeaways offsetting Tulane’s rebounding: “Coach Cory (McNeill) said in the locker room, “You got to respect the 34 turnovers, and they kind of offset the 53 rebounds that they got.” We took the press off a little bit earlier than we think we had. The energy to really do what we needed to do in their press, and we put it back on and it was good for us when we needed it to be good for us. Monk hit some tough “And Ones”. Should have two “And Ones” at the end. That really got our energy flowing and got us going, that’s just who we are. We want our defense to create offense for us, and we did that tonight when we needed that because we struggled in half court scoring. Probably around the second quarter I told them, “Every steal, every defensive stop we get, just push it and try to get something in transition,” obviously we didn’t want to force it but that was our best offense tonight because we struggled in the half court against the zone.”
On the team’s reaction in the fourth quarter: “I think that’s just been our M.O. Especially here in conference play, especially in February, the “no quit” mentality, and not to hang our heads. I’ll say it again; if you play defense, you always have opportunities to win games. We did that tonight when we were struggling to score, and we allowed our defense to create offense for us.”
On the team’s performance: “I’m proud of how they responded, I’m proud of the fourth quarter that we played. Monk gets her ball for breaking the ECU record, she breaks the conference record in steals, she also sets a record in the only player in ECU history to have nine steals twice in one season. That’s what won the game for us; her defensive mentality, her hawking on the ball, and finishing in transition. That’s what won the game for us.”
ECU junior guard Lashonda Monk
On her performance tonight: “ I think I started off a little rocky, of course everyone did but as the season came along and we got used to everything. You know how hard new coaches are, you know their style of play, I think I fit in well.”
On her performance against Tulane: “I was tired, but I knew that I had to be in the game in for us to have a chance at it. I knew we just had to keep pushing.”
On being a role model to young girls at the game: “It feels good, just knowing one day before now I was in that position of wanting to be here and playing college basketball and going to games and stuff, so it really feels good to be able to inspire them.”