The East Carolina University women’s basketball team (5-4, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) currently sits at fifth place in the AAC standings after a 71-58 loss to the University of South Florida Bulls (7-1, 4-0 AAC) on Jan. 2.
The Pirates were faced with a tough non-conference schedule, as three of their five games were against power five schools which included the University of Virginia Cavaliers (0-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), the University of Georgia Bulldogs (8-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) and the Duke University Blue Devils (3-1, 0-0 ACC). Duke has cancelled their season due to COVID-19 concerns.
While ECU went 2-3 in non-conference play, the players were able to use those games to prepare them for their AAC schedule. After a 72-47 loss against Duke on Dec. 5 in Durham, North Carolina, head coach Kim McNeill said the opportunities her team had to play against Power Five schools would help them in the long run against AAC opponents.
“Playing three Power Fives in a row has definitely taught us some lessons,” McNeill said. “We have to learn from it. If we don’t, who we have played has been for nothing.”
After the loss against the Blue Devils, the Pirates proceeded to go on a four game win streak, which began with a 58-55 win at home on Dec. 9 against the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams (3-5, 1-0 Atlantic 10).
ECU would then score three more wins in AAC play against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (0-6, 0-2 AAC), the University of Cincinnati Bearcats (2-5, 1-2 AAC), and the Tulane University Green Wave (5-3, 1-2 AAC).
McNeill said she was happy for her team and the progress they have made up to this point in the 2020-2021 season after a first half that saw them face off against multiple power five schools.
“I am so proud of them,” McNeill said. “I am hard on them sometimes but that’s because I know how good we can be.”
Up to this point in the season, the Pirates have been able to lean on several different players for points. Currently, ECU has four players who average double figures in points per game. Senior guard and preseason all-AAC first team selection Lashonda Monk averages 15.3 points per game. After her, sophomore guard Taniyah Thompson averages 12.4, graduate guard Sierra DaCosta averages 11.8, and junior forward Maddie Moore averages 10.0 points per game, according to the American.
As a team, ECU has established themselves on the defensive end. The Pirates force 21.9 turnovers per game, and on average 12.5 of those are steals. In addition, ECU has a positive turnover margin of 6.3. On offense, the Pirates average 60.1 points per game while they shoot 36.6% from the field as a team. ECU also manages to grab 33.6 rebounds per game while they protect the glass and block 3.1 shots per game, according to the American.
After the Tulane win, McNeill said although there have been some setbacks due to COVID-19, she is pleased with how her team has handled adversity early on in the season.
“For us to go on the road and get a win at Cincinnati, then return home and have less than 24 hours to prepare for a really good team that runs a lot of stuff and come out with a win makes me really proud heading into Christmas break,” McNeill said.
ECU began the 2021 slate with a 71-58 loss on Jan. 2 against the University of South Florida Bulls (7-1, 4-0 AAC) in what was a game between the two top teams in the AAC standings. The Pirates shot 34.9% from the field in the contest, and Monk and Dacosta led ECU in points scored with 13 each.
After the loss at USF on Jan. 2, ECU will now have an AAC home matchup against the Temple University Owls (2-3, 2-0 AAC) on Jan. 6. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN+.