A team that went 22-11 last year returns its two best players and its most potent 3-point threat, yet struggles to put together wins.
That is the reality surrounding East Carolina’s women’s basketball team this year. The Pirates are now 9-11, 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference after Saturday’s 78-73 loss to Tulane (15-5; 6-2 AAC).
Head coach Heather Macy has attributed her team’s struggles to the lack of returning players, and trying to find themselves and grow. When you watch the games, the recurring problem for the Pirates has been their offense.
The struggles haven’t been about scoring points, but controlling the ball, part of which can be attributed to chemistry issues. Not knowing where your teammate wants to get the ball and not being confident in the team’s sets can lead to turnovers. The Pirates boast just two players with more assists than turnovers.
“We need to start valuing the ball,” Macy said following her team’s 63-60 win against Cincinnati. In the game, ECU turned it over 17 times while only assisting on 15 baskets. On Saturday, it was much of the same with the Pirates turning it over 17 times with 15 assists.
The play reflects the stats. Watching the ECU offense has been painful at times this year. The team regularly telegraphs passes and is careless, leading to turnovers or disruption of its rhythm. And when the Pirates do make solid passes, the ball movement is stagnant.
The one positive has been the success of their sets, but their struggles shooting negate that. As a team, ECU shoots 39 percent from the field, 29 percent from the 3-point line and a 69 percent from the free throw line.
The Pirates get a good amount of points from offensive rebounds. ECU has put up double-digit second chance points in all of its conference games except one, which is part of the reason its three best scorers are its three best rebounders as well.
ECU could improve if it had a point guard to successfully lead its offense. Last year’s point guard, Janesha Ebron, was very solid for the Pirates, as she averaged 4.4 assists per game while giving up the ball 3.2 times. This year’s point guards, Khadidja Toure and Alex Frazier, have struggled in that category, putting up 4.5 assists and 4.9 turnovers per game.
Macy seemingly has noticed and has moved Toure to the bench because she has been better off the ball. If freshman Alex Frazier can keep a positive assist to turnover ratio, the offense will improve.
If the Pirates can start protecting the ball and continue to get Jada Payne, I’Tiana Taylor and Marina Laramie, it will bring consistency to an offense, capable of putting up points. If so, the Pirates should be able to get above .500.
The team has 10 games left before the conference tournament. Other than the two games against the dynasty, Connecticut, the Pirates realistically could go 8-2 to wrap up the regular season with a 17-13 record.