GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – For the first time since the 2015-16 season, ECU women’s basketball starts 4-0 after beating Kennesaw State 68-56 on Sunday evening inside Minges Coliseum.
Johnson Starts Fast
In the first quarter, Raven Johnson carried the ECU offense. The junior guard scored eight points in the opening stanza, on her way to a game-high 21 points. The Pirates shot just 5-of-17 from the field in the opening quarter, but Johnson made 2-of-3 shots from the field and hit four free throws in the period.
Low Scoring Second
After leading 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, neither team could get much going offensively in the second quarter. Kennesaw State made a layup with 7:37 left in the second quarter, but the ECU defense did not let the Owls make another field goal until after halftime. Howeer, while ECU allowed Kennesaw to hit just five free throws in that span, the Pirates offense could not take advantage. ECU shot just 6-of-17 in the second quarter and outscored Kennesaw 12-9 to take a 27-21 lead into halftime.
The Owls Come Alive
Kennesaw State came out of the locker room and found its rhythm on offense in the third quarter. The Owls scored 18 points in the period, their highest scoring quarter in the game. For ECU, Johnson helped make sure ECU never fell behind. She scored seven points in the quarter, including nailing a pair of shots from behind the three-point arc. Heading into the final 10 minutes, ECU held just slim 42-39 lead.
The fourth quarter opened with an Owl three-pointer to tie the score at 42-42, followed by Lashonda Monk nailed a key triple as the shot clock was winding down. The fourth quarter followed that pattern, as every time Kennesaw got close, the Pirates were able to counter with an answer on the offensive end. In the fourth, ECU shot a blistering 8-of-9 from the field, hitting both three-pointers and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. ECU’s points came in a variety of ways, as Destiny Campbell and Salita Greene scored off inbounds plays while Raven Johnson and Justice Gee both got free for layups. The game was salted away at the free throw line, with Monk hitting 6-of-6 down the stretch to close the win out.
“In the second half, we knocked down some threes; Necole (Hope) made a big one, Lashonda made one,” said interim head coach Chad Killinger. “I think the three Lashonda made kind of turned a tide. The shot clock went down and she put it up and it went in and I think everyone kind of exhaled. We’re a team that we have to make shots to defend well and if we’re not making shots, we don’t defend as well. We put a lot of our emphasis from a personal standpoint on how we’re playing offensively and we have to flip that eventually and get back to more of letting our defense dictate our offense. It will get better as the year goes on.”
Coming into the game, Kamiyah Street was averaging more than 24 points a game for Kennesaw State and led the country with 97 points this season. But the ECU defense held Street to just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, her lowest point total of the season. The Owls leading scorer on the night was Alexis Poole, who poured in 14 points in just 14 minutes of action. Amani Johnson led the Owls in both rebounding (7) and assists (5).
Inside the Box Score
ECU outscored the Owls in bench points (19-11), points in the paint (28-24), fast break points (13-2), and points off turnovers (18-11)…Gee provided a spark off the bench, finishing with seven points, six assists, and two steals. The six assists tie Gee’s career-high, marking the fourth time she has handed out six helpers…Greene led ECU in rebounding for the third straight game, as she finished with nine boards…ECU led at halftime for the fourth straight game and has not trailed in the second half yet this season.
ECU closes out its five-game homestand by welcoming Wake Forest to Minges Coliseum on Saturday, Nov. 24. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be the opening half of a doubleheader with the ECU men’s team.