Senior Kristine Mial poured in 17 points in East Carolina's 78-69 victory over Tulsa on Senior Night at Williams Arena inside Minges Coliseum. The Pirates' win snapped a three-game losing skid as they improve to 22-6 overall and 10-5 in Conference USA action, while the Golden Hurricane falls to 11-15 on the year and 5-10 in league play.
"I'm just happy for [seniors Kristine Mial and Carly Vendemia] because this is something they're going to remember for the rest of their lives," Head Coach Heather Macy said of the Pirates' win on Senior Night. "They both played probably their best games of the year."
Mial and J'Kyra Brown tied for the team lead with 17 points each in the contest. Mial tallied her 17 points on 6-of-12 field goals and 5-of-8 three-pointers, while Brown was 6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Mial also added three rebounds and two steals. Brown registered four boards and two assists. Vendemia finished the game with nine points, three rebounds and one block. Shae Nelson recorded double-figures as she notched 12 points in the win and Jada Payne was the Pirates' leading rebounder with 10. Payne also added seven points, three assists and a pair of steals. Ondrea Shaw led the ECU defense with a game-high five blocks and six rebounds, five of which were defensive. Shaw has collected 92 blocks on the year and is just three shy of tying the ECU single-season record.
The Pirates converted 26-of-66 field goals en route to shooting 39.4-percent. They also out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane 45-37 and grabbed 20 assists to Tulsa's seven. The Pirates also held the advantage in blocks, 6-2, as well as steals, 10-6.
Tulsa opened the game with a layup to take a quick 2-0 lead, but East Carolina turned things around in a hurry as the Pirates took a 6-5 advantage on a three-pointer from Mial and led for the next 12 minutes. During that time frame, ECU led by six on three separate occasions but the Golden Hurricane remained hot on the Pirates' heels. Tulsa eventually caught up and evened the score at 23-all after going on an 8-2 run following a timeout. The two teams traded points with the ensuing possessions until Mial drained a three to but the Pirates up 30-28 with just over two minutes remaining. Mial's trey sparked a 10-2 run by the Pirates to close out the first half as East Carolina owned a 37-30 lead at halftime.
The second half began with another pair of Mial three-point field goals to put the Pirates up by 11 (43-32). Nevertheless, Tulsa would not go away as it tallied 10 straight points to bring the Golden Hurricane within one point (43-42) at the 13:49 mark. ECU would not allow the Golden Hurricane to come any closer as the Pirates went on a 16-3 run to take a 14-point advantage (59-45) at 9:33. East Carolina led by as many as 18 (73-55) in the game and went on to claim a 78-69 win over the Golden Hurricane.
Tulsa's Ashley Clark turned in a game-high 26-point effort as she went 8-for-17 from the field and converted 10-of-12 free throws. She also added a team-best eight rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. Tulsa's other double-figure scorers were Kadan Brady (11 points) and Antoinet Webster (10 points).
"This was a big win," Macy said. "I think we needed a little momentum at this point in the season and going into the conference tournament. It's always good to play at home and send our seniors out on a positive note."
East Carolina will close out the regular season on Wednesday, March 5, in Norfolk, Va., when the Pirates take on Old Dominion at 7 p.m.
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