In its toughest test of the early season, the East Carolina women’s basketball team lost to Auburn, 61-52, Sunday afternoon. The fast-paced play and suffocating defense of the Tigers proved too much for the Pirates to handle.

One of the biggest keys to the hot start to the season for the Pirates (3-1) was winning the turnover battle, which it did in all three of its prior wins. Sunday however, ECU had 30 turnovers, 12 more than the Tigers.

The recent streak of hot shooting from the Pirates continued and kept the game close, as they shot just below 50 percent. Perhaps the difference was shot attempts, as Auburn took 20 more shots than the Pirates, which contributed to the Pirates’ nine-point loss.

“When you [see] the opposing team takes 20 more shot attempts than you’ve taken and see the score you think it’d be a lot more lopsided,” ECU head coach Heather Macy said. “We competed but the execution of valuing the ball wasn’t where we want it to be.”

Despite losing, guard Bre McDonald continued her impressive start to the season, scoring 16 points with five rebounds and two assists for the Pirates. She was the only Pirate to score double-digit points, as Gabrielle Holston followed up with nine.

Last week’s American Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Week, Kristen Gaffney, only took five shots in her 29 minutes of play, scoring a season-low eight points — after averaging 24 in the team’s first three games.

“[Gaffney’s] a big part of what we do and we definitely have to focus on getting her involved,” Macy said.

The Pirates trailed by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, but mounted a comeback to cut the lead to single digits. ECU never got closer than nine points, though.

“The last [quarter] was our best one. Very pleased with the finish, not pleased with the outcome,” Macy said.

Another problem for the Pirates was being out-rebounded on the offensive glass by 12, as the Tigers collected 17 to the Pirates’ five. The Tigers took full advantage of their second chance opportunities too, scoring 16 second-chance points to the Pirates’ four.

The speed and size of the Southeastern Conference team showed some glaring weaknesses of the Pirates which were not exposed in its first three games.

Even though the team lost its first game of the season, Macy knows every game presents a learning lesson.

“Every time I coach them I see something different, see something we can take away, see something we can utilize later on,” Macy said. “Fun team to coach through the winning and through the losing.”

Up next for the Pirates is the Savannah Invitational, where they will take on Marist, West Virginia and Ball State in consecutive days starting today. This will be the first time the Pirates will play a game outside of Minges Coliseum this season.

“Get ready for a tournament atmosphere early in November which will be a big, big test for us on the road,” said Macy. “It’s going to be good for us.”

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