After a sloppy, turnover-filled first half, the East Carolina women’s basketball team used a dominant third quarter performance to pull away from Presbyterian College for a 54-46 home victory, Monday night.
“Any way you win, you want to win, whether you’re winning ugly or winning pretty,” said ECU head coach Heather Macy. “Tonight we just had to gut one out.”
Kristen Gaffney once again led the Pirates with a game-high 18 points — 10 of which came in the third quarter — and also grabbed eight boards. Gabrielle Holston chipped in with eight points, five rebounds and a team-high four assists.
ECU’s strong third quarter performance, when it outscored the Blue Hose 17-8, was sparked by Alex Frazier’s substitution into the game at the 5:50 mark. Upon entering the game, she immediately stole the ball and drove to the rim. Frazier missed the layup, but Holston was there to clean up and score to give the Pirates a 32-31 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The layup was the beginning of a 9-0 Pirates run highlighted by a fast break ending with a behind-the-back pass from Holston to a cutting Gaffney for an easy layup.
“Alex Frazier came in with a different urgency level, and I think that her play on the defensive end and the way that she commanded the offense changed the game,” Macy said. “So proud of her and the way she stepped up. It was big-time tonight.”
The Pirates started off the game making a lot of sloppy passes, leading to 19 turnovers, 12 of which came in the first half. Presbyterian took advantage and had 16 points off of turnovers.
ECU’s early play was also marked by a lack of energy and hunger to chase down loose balls, which was illustrated by Presbyterian’s 5-foot-7 guard Janie Miles’ game-high 11 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. Miles also finished as the leading scorer for the Blue Hose, with 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and 6-for-8 from the free throw line.
Despite the sloppy, lethargic play from the Pirates, the first half was a back-and-forth affair resulting in 11 lead changes due to the shooting performances of both teams. ECU shot at a 47.8 percent clip in the first half, a little higher than the 46.8 percent it ended the game at.
On the other hand, Presbyterian shot the ball at 33.3 percent in the first half, and finished the game with a 27.8 shooting percentage. Even with the off-shooting night, Presbyterian went into halftime with a 27-24 lead.
The Pirates seemed in control of the game after taking the lead in the third. But they went cold in the fourth quarter, going on a scoring drought lasting 5:15 and saw the Blue Hose shrink the deficit to 45-41.
Sensing the momentum shift, Macy called a timeout with 2:06 left in the game. On the resulting in-bounds play, Dominique Claytor cut towards the basket to receive the inbound pass and laid the ball into the basket while getting fouled. Claytor calmly sank the free throw and ECU never saw their lead dip under seven points during the final minutes of the game.