East Carolina women’s basketball finished the Savannah Invitational over Thanksgiving break with a 2-1 record, defeating Marist College Tuesday and Ball State in overtime Thursday, but falling to No. 19 West Virginia Wednesday.
The Pirates (5-2) finished the tournament on a high note by outscoring the Cardinals of Ball State (3-2) by 13 points in the overtime period. Redshirt senior guard Antoinette Bannister hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to tie the game and force overtime, where ECU took over.
“Our kids could not have played with more heart today,” ECU head coach Heather Macy said. “They stuck to the game plan and never gave up until the final buzzer so I am really proud of them.”
Fellow redshirt senior guard Khadidja Toure scored a game- and career-high 25 points to help lead the Pirates to their fifth victory. Toure continued the theme of efficient shooting by going 9-for-14 from the field, and making four of her seven 3-point attempts.
“You also have to talk about the way Toure played today. Not only did she score the basketball, but also defended really well," Macy said.
ECU opened the game slowly, down 8-2 on a quick Ball State run. The Pirates continued to struggle through the first period, and found itself trailing 18-6 after the first 10 minutes.
After the teams traded lopsided quarters, it became a tightly contested game in the second half. The Pirates nailed three triples to open up the second half, but squandered the nine-point lead through the rest of the period.
The fourth quarter featured numerous lead changes leaving the Cardinals in the lead by three points with just 11 seconds to go. Toure brought the ball up and found Bannister on the left wing where she rattled in a deep 3-pointer to tie the score. ECU’s Bre McDonald then came up with a big block to deny a Ball State win on the final possession.
Despite the game hanging in the balance from the second quarter, a 9-0 run to begin the overtime period turned the momentum to the Pirates’ side. ECU expanded the lead to 15 points before ending the game with a 13-point victory.
ECU’s second game saw it fall, 79-47, to its first ranked opponent of the season, No. 19 West Virginia (6-0). McDonald, who transferred from West Virginia after the 2014-15 season, scored a team-high 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting and was one of only two Pirates who scored in double figures.
The Mountaineers, who never trailed during the game, dominated every statistic. They shot the ball much better than ECU, making 48.3 percent of its shots compared to the Pirates’ 35.8. West Virginia also won the rebounding battle 41-32, including 14 offensive rebounds which it converted into 14 second chance points.
“I’m disappointed in how we finished the game,” Macy said. “We played a lot of kids and it was good to get some of them game experience, but we did not defend the way I know we can and let them get on the offensive glass too much. West Virginia is a really good team, but we need to regroup.”
A scoreless drought that lasted almost five minutes allowed WVU to push its lead to 19 points in the second quarter. Despite jumpers from McDonald and Bannister, the Pirates only managed to score nine points in the second period and allowed its ranked opponent to head to the intermission with a 14 point lead.
The second half followed a similar script as the first, where West Virginia held on to win the third quarter by five points, then dominate the Pirates in the final period.
ECU scored four points in the final period of the game, where WVU cushioned its lead and cruised to a victory. Another scoring drought by the Pirates allowed the Mountaineers to build a 28-point lead, and WVU scored six of the last eight points of the game to provide the final 32-point margin.
The Pirates kicked off the Savannah Invitational with a close win over Marist (1-6), 70-68. Bannister sealed the victory by sinking three free throws with 10 seconds left in the game. ECU’s 46.8 shooting percentage and 14 second-chance points off 19 offensive rebounds helped the Pirates overcome Marist’s nine 3-pointers.
“This was a big win because Marist is a traditionally excellent, well-coached basketball team with a rich history,” said Macy. “They will be very good in their league.”
After a five-point run by the Red Foxes which gave them thier first lead of the game, McDonald capped an 8-4 run for the Pirates that gave them a three point advantage. After going back-and-forth in the second quarter, the Pirates entered halftime up two points.
Marist then got hot from behind the 3-point line, sinking a trio of 3s to take a 50-47 lead into the final period.
The Red Foxes extended their lead to seven with a four point run, but a Frazier jumper and a deep 3 from Bannister cut the Marist lead to two. The Pirates clamped down on defense over the remainder of the period, holding Marist scoreless for over two minutes, while McDonald hit a jumper and Gaffney scored a pair of baskets to give the Pirates a 67-66 lead.
After a Marist bucket, Bannister hoisted up a 3 that missed on the team’s final possession, but she was fouled. The transfer player calmly knocked down all three free throws to lead the Pirates to a close victory.