Lashonda Monk

Lashonda Monk is a freshman guard on the ECU Women's Basketball team.

Since freshman guard Lashonda Monk was inserted into the starting lineup, the East Carolina University women’s basketball team is surging with a three-game win streak after handling Southern Methodist University in a lopsided 76-47 win at Minges Coliseum on Saturday.

Monk’s presence has energized the team, with ECU improving the offense across the board more and more each game. According to head coach Heather Macy, one simple word to describe Monk: “amazing.”

“What a response to go in the middle of the year from a point guard to a wing position,” Macy said. “She’s going to be a better point guard for it because she understands how we want to play from a different angle.”

In the three games as a starter, Monk has put up great production, averaging 18 points per game on 53 percent from the field, including a career-high in point totals in each of those game. She also recorded 5.7 assists per game and has led the team in assists each time as well. Her last two games earned her American Athletic Conference Freshman-of-the-Week, joining freshman Ariyana Williams as the second Pirate to earn that honor this season.

“I think starting gets me going earlier,” Monk said. “I don’t have to sit and then adjust to the game; it gets me hype.”

During this three-game winning streak, the Pirates have beaten the University of Cincinnati, Wichita State and SMU all by nine points or more. ECU has scored 79 (UC), 77 (WSU) and 76 (SMU) points, all of which are significantly more than its 65.6 season average. ECU has made the effort to pass the ball around, as it posted assist totals of 16 (UC), 18 (WSU) and 20 (SMU), also all up from its season average of 14.6 assists per game.

“I think that they did a great job executing the game plan and sharing the basketball,” Macy said after the SMU matchup. “When you look at getting 20 assists on 31 buckets, I think that tells you a lot about the unselfishness of our basketball team.”

ECU is already second in the AAC in steals with 11.3 per game and opponent turnovers per game at 22.2, but the defensive energy has only improved since Monk has entered the starting lineup. The last two games have seen steals totals of 14 (WS) and 22 (SMU) and the opponent turnover total the last three games have been 26 (UC), 20 (WS) and 34 (SMU).

Monk has been the leader of those totals, as she has averaged 5.7 steals per game in the last three contests. Her career-high 10 steals against SMU was one away from the program single-game steals record (11). Her impact is felt on both ends, as the 34 turnovers she helped force against SMU led to 32 points off of turnovers for ECU.

Despite the improved offensive effort, Macy is quick to remind everyone that defense is just as important as offense. Monk has been a driving force of the improved play at that end of the floor as well, leading in steals.

“I’ve always known I can play defense,” Monk said. “I’m just getting comfortable in Coach Macy’s system and she’s trusting me so It’s coming together.”

The last time ECU and SMU met on Jan. 13, it was a 65-51 SMU win in a game where the Mustangs got 42 free throw attempts and the Pirates could not overcome it. With Monk in the starting lineup on Saturday the team played aggressively, and ECU held the Mustangs to only 28 free throw attempts.

Defense was big for ECU, recording 21 steals while forcing 34 turnovers, highlighted by a third quarter that saw the Pirates recording nine steals and forcing 10 Mustang turnovers in that quarter alone. SMU had a stretch of more than seven minutes without a field goal and ECU used that to bury it with a 20-point lead going into the fourth quarter and defense is one area Macy believes her team has improved in.

“I think that they have really responded to a couple different adjustments that we’ve made,” Macy said. “I think tonight it particularly worked the negate the size that we needed to play a more full court basketball game.”

ECU moves on to play the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, Wednesday at 7 p.m. The improved play of ECU will be tested against a good offensive team, with USF ranking top-four among the AAC in almost every offensive category, including points per game, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Monk will play, looking to help ECU secure a four-game win streak.

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