ECU women's basketball suffers first home loss to UNCW, 71-68

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – In a back-and-forth affair, the ECU women’s basketball team came up just short against UNC Wilmington, losing 71-68 on Sunday afternoon inside Minges Coliseum.

Sunday’s contest was a game of runs, with the lead changing 13 times throughout the game. However, during the first quarter, ECU was in charge. The Pirates led the entire first period thanks to a perfect start from Raven Johnson. The junior guard scored nine of ECU’s 17 points in the quarter on 3-of-3 shooting and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.

In the second period, Wilmington took its first lead early on, leading 18-17. A three-pointer from Necole Hope gave ECU the lead again, followed by an Alex Frazier jumper to extend the lead. The Seahawks answered with a layup and then consecutive shots from behind the arc to take a 26-22 lead with 4:37 remaining in the half, their largest of the game.

Hope then sparked a run of her own. The sophomore buried a three to draw ECU within one, before the two teams traded layups. After a Wilmington turnover, Hope hit another three to regain the lead. Two possessions later, Hope once again connected from behind the arc, her fourth three-ball of the quarter. Wilmington ended the 11-2 ECU run with a jumper to finish the half, sending the Pirates into the locker room leading 33-30.

The third quarter saw each team take their turn dominating the proceedings. Wilmington opened with four straight points to take the lead before the Pirates shook off their halftime lethargy. Johnson got to the free throw line and hit both shots followed by Salita Greene knocking down a jumpshot. After a Greene steal, Hope added a layup and then her fifth three-pointer one possession later. Following a media timeout, ECU added another stop and then Johnson was fouled once again. Johnson hit one of two free throws to finish the 10-0 run and extend ECU’s lead to nine points.

The lead was short-lived though. Wilmington allowed just one ECU point, a Hope free throw, over the next three minutes and went on an 11-1 run to regain the lead. ECU recovered to close out the quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 51-47 heading into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead six times. With 4:55 remaining, the score was tied at 59-59. ECU went on a 6-0 run, with Ariyana Williams hitting a pair of free throws followed by Frazier making a lay-up and a jumper. Wilmington turned around and went on a 7-0 run of its own, punctuated with a traditional three-point play by GiGi Smith.

Trailing 66-65 with 1:20 remaining, ECU turned again to Hope. The sophomore came through, making her sixth and final three pointer from the right wing to give ECU the lead.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, Wilmington had one final run left in it. The Seahawks tied the score on a layup by Smith and then took the lead with two free throws by Shrita Parker after an ECU turnover.

The Pirates had a couple of chances to either tie the score or take the lead, but a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining was partially blocked and then ECU stepped on the sideline on the ensuing possession, ending ECU’s chances.

Hope finished with a career-high 25 points, on 9-of-16 shooting and 6-of-8 from behind the arc. Joining her in double-figures was Johnson (16 points) and Frazier (13 points). Johnson led the Pirates in both rebounds (7) and assists (3) whule Hope had a game-high three steals. ECU won the turnover battle, forcing Wilmington into 26 miscues, against just 17 ECU turnovers, and scored 31 points off those turnovers. Wilmington controlled the glass though, outrebounding the Pirates 46-34 and outscored ECU 30-22 in the paint. Most of the ECU scoring came from the starters, as the ECU bench contributed just six points, the lowest total this season.

Wilmington was led in scoring by Parker, who finished with 26 points on 7-of-20 shooting and 9-of-12 from the free throw line. The Seahawks scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, the highest total by an ECU opponent this season. Smith finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and hauling in 10 rebounds.

The Pirates finish their nonconference schedule with a 9-4 record and will next head into AAC play. ECU starts the conference slate at Tulane on Saturday, Jan. 5 with tipoff scheduled for 3 p.m., in New Orleans.