GREENVILLE, N.C. – Georgia outscored East Carolina 41-27 in the second half on the way to a 66-45 non-conference victory Thursday evening inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum in the Pirates’ home opener.
The Bulldogs (3-0) remained undefeated while ECU (1-2) fell in its second of three-straight games against “Power Five” opponents.
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“First and foremost, hats off to Georgia,” head coach Kim McNeill said. “They’re a good team and I wish them luck in the SEC this year. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m extremely disappointed in the way we finished that game in the fourth quarter. That’s not who we are and that’s not who we’re going to be. We’ve made strides and we fight hard to compete. It’s not that we lost the game, but how we lost the game.”
After missing the first two games of the campaign with an injury, senior guard, defending 2019-20 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and preseason All-AAC selection Lashonda Monk made her season debut, doing so in style. She netted a game-high 17 points to go along with four rebounds and three steals. Sophomore guard Taniyah Thompson added seven points and two steals while freshman guard Synia Johnson chipped in with five points, three rebounds and a trio of steals. Que Morrison paced UGA with 13 points and four steals to complement a seven-assist effort out of Gabby Connally.
ECU hit just 17 of 60 attempts (28.3 percent) from the field while Georgia ended up at 46.4 percent by knocking down 26 of 56. The Bulldogs also enjoyed a healthy advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Pirates 44-31. Positively, the Pirates forced 22 Georgia turnovers and collected 12 steals, turning those into 19 points.
“Coach Cory (McNeill) did an amazing job with the scout and I feel like the young ladies were extremely prepared,” McNeill added. “Georgia did not do anything different than what we talked about. It comes down to executing the game plan and I thought we did that for 20-25 minutes. We looked like we quit in the fourth quarter and that’s not acceptable. It won’t be acceptable in this program.”
A trio of Georgia players knocked down three of the squad’s first six attempts from the field to help the Bulldogs build a 6-0 advantage just over three minutes into the game. East Carolina notched its first bucket of the day thanks to a Monk steal and Siera DaCosta fastbreak layup to slice the UGA lead to four, but Georgia would stretch its cushion to 11 following a pair of Javyn Nicholson free throws with under two minutes on the clock. ECU had the final say in the quarter as Thompson hit a pair of free throws to leave the Bulldogs ahead by nine.
Nicholson extended the visitors’ lead to 13 at 21-8 early in the second quarter on a driving layup, but East Carolina made a push from there, out-scoring Georgia 8-2 over the next two and a half minutes to reduce its deficit to seven. That would be the margin at halftime as Monk put in a layup off a Bulldog turnover to make it 25-18.
Monk and UGA’s Jenna Staiti matched each other with eight points in the opening half. The Pirates converted just eight of 33 attempts (24.2 percent) from the field while Georgia was good on 10 of its 27 shots to end up at 37 percent. The Bulldogs had the edge on the glass by a 24-17 count, but ECU forced 14 UGA turnovers that led to 10 Pirate points.
East Carolina continued to chip away at the Bulldog lead in the third quarter, whittling the deficit down to six following an old-fashioned three-point play by Thompson. After the media timeout, Georgia extended its upper hand back to 11, but Monk scored five straight – including a three-pointer – to make it 40-34 with 1:37 on the clock. The Bulldogs seized control from there, snagging the final six points of the period to head into the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead.
A driving layup by sophomore forward Xianna Josephs pulled the Pirates within 10 early in the fourth stanza. However, Georgia began to exert itself and pulled away, building as much as a 23-point advantage before the final buzzer.
East Carolina makes a quick turnaround for its next contest, traveling over to Durham Saturday for a non-conference matchup at Duke. The game is scheduled for a noon tip and will be streamed live via ACC Network Extra.