The East Carolina University’s women’s basketball team, led by Raven Johnson’s 21 points and Thais Oliveira’s double-double, rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the University of South Carolina Upstate 66-53 in its season opener.
The Pirates and Spartans played a competitive first quarter which resulted in USCU having a 18-14 lead at the end of the period. The Pirates struggled on the offensive and defensive end in the second quarter, only shooting 26.7 percent from the field and allowing five three-pointers in the period, resulting in a 35-25 halftime deficit for the Pirates.
“We allowed them to really get down on penetration and kick out to (the) shooters and they shot the ball really well in the first half,” ECU head coach Heather Macy said.
The second half was a different story for the Pirates as they came out of halftime with more intensity and dominated the Spartans on the defensive end. The Pirates came away with seven steals in the third quarter which helped spark a 19-6 run to give ECU a 44-41 lead in the period.
“When you are not generating much in the half court, I think it’s very important to score through your defense,” Macy said. “It’s also important to rebound and try to get out in transition before their zone got setup and I thought we did a much better job in the second half of doing that.”
Entering the fourth quarter, the Pirates were able to extend their lead to eight, but was shortly cut to one point with a 7-0 run led by Spartan Anda Kuzmina. But Johnson responded with five straight points of her own to give the Pirates enough breathing room to close out USCU and come away with the victory.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the game was the performance of Oliveira, who was dealing with a foot injury for most of last season. Oliveira finished the game with a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double that also included four steals and two blocked shots.
“Since the summer, I’ve been in complete health so that feels a lot different,” Oliveira said. “Tonight, I tried to focus on what coach told me to do. To be aggressive, catch the ball and make the best option.”
ECU is now 7-1 in season under coach Macy. The Pirates look to continue their hot start to the season when they play their first road game against University of North Carolina at Wilmington on Wednesday night at 7.
“We just want to win as a program,” Johnson said. “Of course when we’re down and things aren’t going our way we just want to win. It’s not necessarily me putting the ball in the hoop, but it’s me trying to make sure that I can do what I can do for the girl beside me so we can come away with the W.”