ECU women's basketball held up in Houston, 63-52

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HOUSTON (ECU) - After trailing by just one heading into the fourth quarter, the ECU women’s basketball team could not get over the hump and fell to Houston 63-52 on Saturday afternoon inside the Fertitta Center.

ECU (13-12, 4-8 AAC) shot 21-of-57 (.368) from the floor and 4-of-11 (.364) from three-point range. Raven Johnson led the Pirates with 16 points while Salita Greene added 13 points as well as a team-high six rebounds. Alex Frazier added eight points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals. The Pirates had a 20-17 advantage in turnovers.

Houston (13-11, 7-4 AAC) were led by Dorian Branch’s 21 points on 8-of-12 (.750) shooting. Serithia Hawks also added 12 points and eight rebounds. The Cougars shot 25-of-57 (.439) from the floor and outrebounded ECU 40-31.

ECU took a little time to get going. The Pirates shot just 5-of-18 (.276) during the first quarter, with all five of those made field goals coming inside the paint. On the defensive end, ECU was able to force six Houston turnovers. The difference in the early going was success behind the arc, as Houston hit a pair of threes in the first quarter while ECU missed both attempts, leading to a 14-10 Houston lead after one.

The first six minutes of the second quarter belonged to the Cougars. Houston attacked inside and outside, hitting five layups as well as a pair of triples on the way to a 16-7 run during the first six minutes of the quarter.

ECU could have let the game get away there, but the defense helped propel a Pirate run. Houston did not score for the final four minutes while the Pirates chipped away at the 13-point lead. Frazier hit a jumper and a few possessions later, her steal led to a Johnson three. On the final ECU possession of the half, Ariyana Williams capped the 8-0 ECU run with her second three-pointer of the quarter. That narrowed the gap to 30-25 at the break.

In the third quarter, the ECU offense was jolted to life by Johnson and Greene. The pair scored ECU’s first 14 points of the frame, with the two teams going back and forth. Over the first eight and a half minutes of the quarter, the Houston lead vacillated between four and seven points. ECU finally drew closer when Necole Hope nailed a high-arching three, making the score 45-42. Greene added two free throws to cut the lead to one. ECU had a pair of chances to take the lead, but a turnover and a missed three meant the Pirates still trailed 45-44 heading into the fourth.

Although the Pirates could not take the lead in the early going of the fourth, ECU continued to hang around thanks to layups from Frazier and Justice Gee. The layup by Gee made the score 50-48 with 8:11 remaining, but ECU got no closer. The Pirates made just one field goal the rest of the way while Houston salted the game away thanks to points in the paint and made free throws. In the fourth quarter, ECU shot just 3-of-13 (.231) and did not make a three-pointer while Houston scored 10 points in the paint and shot 5-of-8 (.625) from the free throw line.

ECU will return home on Wednesday night when the Pirates host USF. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., inside Minges Coliseum.