The East Carolina University (1-1, 0-0 AAC) women’s basketball team is very familiar with The University of South Carolina Upstate (1-1, 0-0 Big South) at this point as they met for the third straight year at Minges Coliseum on Friday night.
In their previous two matchups, ECU has won 66-53 and 63-53, and they looked to continue their winning streak against the Spartans.
Looking to get their first win of the season and new head coach Kim McNeil’s first win as a Pirate after opening with a tough 68-66 loss against Middle Tennessee State University (1-0, 0-0 C-USA), the Pirates dominated the court, winning by the largest margin in the series yet. ECU left the game with a 21-point victory after winning by a score of 69-48.
“We challenged the team to see if we could pick up where we left off on Wednesday with our energy, and with our effort and I thought overall we did that,” head coach Kim McNeil said. “We had some lapses here and there, but I am super proud of the mentality we came out with. We didn’t hang our heads after Wednesday’s game. We had a lot of good individual efforts but a really good team effort and we kind of conquered some goals we had set for ourselves.”
ECU never trailed during the game. USC Upstate managed to tie the game at some points but after senior guard Raven Johnson scored the first basket of the game for ECU, the Pirates never looked back.
The Pirates were up 6-0 before the Spartans scored their first basket and it wasn’t until there was 8:22 left in the second quarter that USC Upstate was able to tie the game up for the first time since it was 0-0.
The two teams traded a couple baskets and the score was 19-17 Pirates with 7:08 left in the half. That is when both teams went cold, until junior guard Leshonda Monk broke the cold streak with a lay-up to push the score to 21-17. The Pirates would add a few more baskets and the Spartans would remain cold as the score going into halftime was 27-17 in favor of the Pirates.
𝗪𝗜𝗡 𝗢𝗡𝗘✔️🏴☠️🏴☠️🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/EBAVg5ZioV— ECU Women’s Basketball (@ECUWomensHoops) November 9, 2019
Through the first half of the third quarter, the teams traded baskets. Pirates weren’t able to really pull away until Monk made her first three-pointer of the game which started a 10-3 run by the Pirates to extend their lead to 15 entering the fourth.
In the fourth, the Pirates continued their defensive game and never allowed the Spartans to pull within 15 points. They were able to outscore USC Upstate 19-13 in the final quarter of play.
Taniyah Thompson led the Pirates with 25 points in just her second career game, shooting 10-of-21 from the field and added seven rebounds as well. Monk was second in scoring for the Pirates with 17 points of her own to go along with nine assists and five steals. The third and final Pirate to score in double-digits was Raven Johnson, who almost had a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Thompsan’s 25 points are the most by an ECU freshman since the 2017-18 season when Ariyana Williams dropped 34. Monk, who added nine assists and five steals on top of her scoring output, now has 11 steals on the season in just two games and is also the sixth player in program history to have 200 career steals.
“I think her (coach McNeil) implementing that defense just gets me going our press and our 12 defense sets us up for getting a lot of steals. Me and my teammates and I think that helps me really get going,” Monk said
On the day, the Spartans actually had a better shooting percentage, finishing with an overall of 39.6 from the floor. However, the Spartans had weak form for three-point range and were lackluster at the line. They were 2-of-16 from three and were 4-of-12 from the free throw line.
The Pirates were proved better at the line and were a bit better from three. The Pirates were 8-of-15 from the free throw line and were 5-of-16 from three. Monk herself was 5-of-6 from the free throw line, making more than the entire Spartans team combined.
The Pirates take to the court again on Tuesday against the College of William & Mary (1-0, 0-0 CAA). It will be ECU’s second consecutive home game with a tip-off time of 7 p.m.