A tenacious defensive effort helped the ECU women’s basketball team top Memphis 68-59 on Saturday afternoon inside Minges Coliseum.
“I told the girls after the UConn game that everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth,” said acting head coach Nicole Mealing. “With that, UConn hit us with a jab-cross-uppercut, and we got knocked out. Now are you going to stay down for that ten second count, or are you going to get up and fight? They showed that today, they fought. I’m just proud of the way they responded.”
ECU (12-11, 3-7 AAC) did not shoot the ball well from the floor, as the Pirates finished just 20-of-77 (.260) from the field. Where the Pirates did excel was in forcing Memphis (9-14, 4-6 AAC) turnovers, as the Tigers turned it over 31 times off which ECU scored 20 points, as well as from the free throw where ECU shot 25-of-30 (.833). Lashonda Monk led the way in both categories, finishing with a game-high 22 points, including 15-of-16 (.938) from the charity stripe and racking up eight steals.
ECU got to the free throw line early and often in the first quarter. Despite shooting just 27.8% in the opening frame, compared to 50.0% for Memphis, ECU led for most of the quarter due to its nine made free throws. Monk finished the first frame with nine points and five steals while Ariyana Williams added five points. ECU went into the second quarter with a 20-16 lead.
In the second, the ECU defense smothered Memphis’ offense. The Tigers could not score for the first four and a half minutes and did not make their first field goal over five minutes. ECU meanwhile, went on a 11-2 run to extend the lead to 31-18. After a traditional three-point play for Memphis, Destiny Campbell rattled off the game’s next five points, the last two coming with 30 seconds remaining. A Memphis jumper with three seconds left meant ECU headed into the halftime break leading 36-23 as the Pirates outscored Memphis 16-7 in the second quarter.
ECU’s momentum continued in the opening stages of the third quarter. Raven Johnson started the frame with a three-point play. After a pair of Memphis jumpers were sandwiched around an Alex Frazier jumper, Monk got to the basket for a layup and then Johnson splashed a three from the corner, giving ECU its largest lead of the game at 46-27.
Memphis did not fold though. A 15-4 run by the Tigers’ cut ECU’s lead to just eight with 2:14 remaining in the third period. Two free throws by Salita Greene and a fastbreak layup by Frazier helped ECU regain a double-digit cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, ECU had its worst shooting frame of the game. The Pirates shot just 2-of-19 (.105) from the floor. However, ECU was able to survive once again due to its defense and free throw shooting. Although Memphis shot 50.0% from the floor in the quarter, ECU allowed just six Tiger shots, as the Pirates pulled down 10 offensive rebounds and forced nine Memphis turnovers. At the same time, ECU got to the charity stripe 12 times, hitting 10 of those to make sure that Memphis never got closer than five points.
Along with Monk’s 22 points, Johnson (13) and Frazier (12) both reached double figures in scoring. Johnson led ECU in rebounding, hauling in nine boards while Greene finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Monk’s eight steals were the fifth time in her career she had knabbed at least eight steals in a game, a feat that had only happened 11 times before her arrival in Greenville.
For Memphis, Alana Davis finished with a double-double as she had 10 points and 18 rebounds. Jamirah Shutes (16) and Taylor Barnes (11) also scored in double-figures.
ECU also had a special moment during the first quarter, as the Pirates recognized and honored ECU Hall of Famer Rosie Thompson. Thompson is the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and is the only female in school history to have her number retired. Rosie served in several roles with the women’s basketball team in the 80s and 90s, including Graduate Assistant Coach, Assistant Coach, and finally Head Coach from 1992-95. Additionally, she served in the ECU admissions department in the 1980s and finally as the Senior Women Administrator and head of Compliance of Athletics from 1995-2014. ECU Athletics and the AAC presented Thompson with a commemorative plaque recognizing her contributions promoting, uplifting and supporting girls and women through sports.
ECU will head on its longest road trip of the season as the Pirates play a pair of games in Texas. First up is a meeting with SMU on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.