Women’s Basketball Can’t Overcome No. 20/21 USF in Tampa
Tampa, Fla. – East Carolina was led by Kristen Gaffney who had 13 points in a 79-48 loss at no. 20/21 USF Saturday night in the Sun Dome.
Team Records: East Carolina (10-8, 1-4 AAC) | USF (14-2, 3-0 AAC)
Kristen Gaffney led East Carolina in scoring for the tenth time this season with a 13-point performance in a 79-48, loss on the road against No. 20/21 USF Saturday night. Saturday’s loss marked the third-consecutive road game in which the Pirates faced an opponent that is undefeated at home this season.
ECU kept it close in the first quarter trailing by just one point after the opening ten minutes. The Bulls sharp shooting in the second quarter gave USF a double-figure lead, which it held through the remainder of the game.
Thais Oliveira had a team-high eight rebounds, one shy of her career mark, while Raven Johnson was second in scoring with nine points. Additionally, Khadidja Toure blocked a career-best three shots.
USF had three players score 20 points with Ariadna Pujol scoring a game-high 23 points. The Bulls improve to 14-2 overall and 7-0 inside the Sun Dome this season while ECU returns home 10-8 overall and 1-4 in AAC play. East Carolina is 7-2 at home this season.
Head Coach Heather Macy
“Obviously we played a nationally-ranked team that was not pleased with their last performance and they played that way. We challenged our kids and switched up our starting lineup. Over the past two days we have had pretty intense practices. My hopes is that the result would have been different but the effort level was really, really good. I think that our young players had incredible energy but they are just so inexperience in this kind of environment.”
On switching up the starting lineup:
“I think having two ball handlers on the floor was going to help us. We have been turning the ball over too much and tonight we only had 13 turnovers so that was much improved. I thought they responded well at halftime. We didn’t have any offensive rebounds in the first half and then in the second we had 15, especially with Thais (Oliveira) in there.”
On Oliveira and her rebounding performance:
“I think we got a lot from her tonight that we can build on moving forward. She sat for so long with an injury and she needs to play. I hope over the last two games she has been able get valuable minutes that will help us next week.”
On the tough road week for ECU:
“There’s no doubt about it, it has been a very tough week for the Pirates. We will step away from it tomorrow and then we will go right back to work on Monday. We have got to be relentless and show incredible amounts of toughness.”
On tough start to conference play and moving forward:
“The last two practices have been incredible intense and I am not letting up at all with them. The players are going to have to match my intensity because the way this program is, we’ve worked really hard to build it, and we are going to continue to build this program forward. I am going to need everybody involved in our program to continue to increase the intensity level because we will not accept losing, period. Regardless of who we play, or where we play it.”
South Florida got out to a 10-4 lead with a pair of early three-pointers by Kitja Laksa and Ariadna Pujol. The Pirates responded with a 10-5 run to close out the first quarter and trail 15-14 at the buzzer after a three-pointer by Khadidja Toure. Kristen Gaffney led East Carolina with seven points in the opening frame while USF was led by Pujol. ECU shot 50 percent (6-for-12) from the field while the Bulls had a 37.5 shooting percentage.
The second quarter opened without a field goal for the first three minutes of action. USF improved to shoot 64.3 percent from the field in the while East Carolina shot 30.8 percent (4-for-13). The Bulls closed the first half on a 9-4 run to lead 35-22 at halftime. ECU was led by Gaffney in the first half who had nine points (4-for-6) and three rebounds. The Pirates shot 40 percent from the field through the first 20 minutes of action.
East Carolina got off to a slow start in the third quarter, an 11-4 run by the Bulls gave USF a 46-26 lead with 6:03 to play in the frame. South Florida went on a 15-0 run in the third quarter which was broken up by a layup by Antoinette Bannister. The Pirates held USF scoreless from the field in the final 5:16 of the quarter. At the end of the stanza, South Florida held a 60-35 lead.
USF edged ECU 19-13 in the final frame. Thais Oliveira grabbed six rebounds down the stretch, four offensive, for the Pirates. The Purple & Gold struggled from the field in the fourth quarter and shot 26.3 percent. USF shot 58.8 percent from the field and was led by Maria Jespersen who had seven points. ECU’s bench scored 11 of the Pirates 13 points in the final stanza, marking the second-straight game the bench has accounted for more than 80 percent of ECU’s fourth quarter points. The Bulls held on for a 31-point win despite late game efforts by East Carolina.
East Carolina returns home to Minges Coliseum to host UCF Wednesday, January 18. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. and will be streamed live on the American Digital Network.