GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – East Carolina had the ball with 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation, but was unable to get off a shot as the Pirates fell, 55-54, to Tulsa in American Athletic Conference action Wednesday evening at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum.
Jada Payne compiled her 11th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds to go with three assists, two blocks and a pair of steals. DeVaughn Gray and Khadidja Toure each shot 5-for-10 from the field and added 12 points apiece, while Alexandra Frazier dished out a personal-best six assists. I’Tiana Taylor flirted with a triple-double with seven points, seven boards and a career-high seven steals.
Tulsa’s (8-15, 5-7 AAC) Ashley Clark led all scorers with 22 points on 10-for-19 shooting to go with six rebounds, while Erika Wakfield chipped in 13 points.
Clark got Tulsa off to a fast start by making each of her first three shots from the field for her team’s first seven points and an early 7-2 lead at the 7:25 mark. ECU buckled down on defense and responded with six-straight points over the subsequent five minutes for its first lead of the game, but a pair of threes by the Golden Hurricane helped build a 15-14 lead after 10 minutes of play.
East Carolina (9-13, 3-7 AAC) did an even better job on the defensive end of the floor in the second quarter, allowing just seven points which tied its efforts against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 13) and UCF (Jan. 7) for the fewest surrendered in a period this season. The Pirates capitalized offensively, closing the half on an 11-1 scoring run to take a 27-22 lead into the intermission.
ECU shot 11-for-31 (.355) from the field, 1-for-5 (.200) from three-point range and made all four free throw attempts in the first half, while Tulsa shot 8-for-23 (.348), 4-for-8 (.500) from deep and 2-for-6 (.333) at the foul line.
Gray had the hot hand out of the locker room, sinking each of her first two attempts from beyond the arc to open up a 33-24 advantage just 65 seconds into the third quarter. The Golden Hurricane responded with an 8-0 run of its own, capped by a three by Grovey, to cut the deficit to just one with 6:38 remaining.
A six-point spurt by East Carolina over the ensuing 1:58 pushed the advantage back to seven and a pair of Payne baskets to the 1:19 mark gave the Pirates a double-digit lead and their largest of the night, 45-35, before taking an eight-point advantage into the final frame.
A jumper by Payne began the fourth quarter and extended the advantage back to 10 points, 47-37, but a 12-3 run by Tulsa, capped by a Clark layup with 3:50 left on the clock all but erased the deficit, 50-49. Gray responded on the other end with her final jumper of the night to bring ECU’s lead back to three, but baskets on consecutive possessions by Clark and Wakefield put the Golden Hurricane back in front, 53-52, with 1:40 to go.
A jumper by Frazier with 33 seconds remaining was countered by a Clark jumper with just seven ticks left resulted in a pair of lead changes, before the Pirates burned their final timeout with 3.3 seconds remaining.
The ball was inbounded across the half court at Tulsa’s end of the floor, into Payne’s hands, but Teanna Reid came up with the steal as the clock ran out.
East Carolina finished the night shooting 22-for-57 (.386) overall, 4-for-12 (.333) from three and 6-for-8 (.750) at the free throw line, while the Golden Hurricane went 22-for-53 (.415) from the field, 6-for-17 (.353) beyond the arc and 5-for-11 (.455) at the stripe.
ECU owns a 39-31 rebounding advantage, a 22-18 edge in points off turnovers and a 13-4 lead on second chance baskets for the evening.
East Carolina will return to action Saturday, Feb. 6 when the Pirates travel to Storrs, Conn., to take on top-ranked UConn. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SportsNet New York (SNY) in the northeast and available on ESPN3/WatchESPN.