How many teams can say that they got the opportunity to take on a talented University of Connecticut women’s basketball team? The answer to that is not many. The East Carolina University women’s basketball team (3-16, 0-6 AAC) welcomed the No. 3 ranked UConn team (18-1, 8-0 AAC) to Minges Coliseum on Saturday where it would suffer a 98-42 loss in front of 2,241 fans.
Final | UConn 98 — ECU 42The Huskies take this one. We’re back in Minges Coliseum on Tuesday night!— ECU Women’s Basketball (@ECUWomensHoops) January 25, 2020
The first quarter was a back-and-forth for both teams. The Huskies started the game on a 6-0 run in the first two and a half minutes of the game. ECU got on the board with 7:21 remaining in the period thanks to redshirt junior guard/forward Dominique Claytor knocking down a mid-range jump shot.
Junior guard Lashonda Monk knocked down her first shot following Claytor to bring the score to 6-4 with 6:34 left in the period. The Pirates would battle back into the game to where they were tied with UConn at 11-11 with 4:33 left in the first quarter. The Huskies would go up 22-13 towards the end of the period but after that Monk perhaps had not only the play-of-the-day for ECU but the play-of-the-year. She dribbled down the court and heaved a shot from beyond halfcourt that was banked in to end the first quarter, but UConn still lead 22-16 going into the second.
“I thought we played a really good first quarter,” ECU women’s head coach Kim McNeill said. “I thought we came out, we executed, showed some energy and some fight and then we started missing layups, and I thought from that point our confidence went down and we allowed them to live in transition.”
Sophomore forward Tiara Chambers started things off scoring wise for ECU to bring the score to 22-18, but that would be the closest it would get for the rest of the game.The Pirates struggled to score after that as they witnessed the Huskies go on a 28-3 run for the rest of the period thanks to ECU missing layups and committing turnovers. After trailing by six at the end of the first period, the Pirates went into the half down by 29, 50-21 thanks to UConn having two players combine for 36 of the 50 first half points.
Husky sophomore guard Christyn Williams torched the Pirates for 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 from the three point line. Husky junior guard Megan Walker had a double-double at the end of the first 20 minutes. She scored 15 first half points on 5-for-11 shooting from the floor and shot 2-for-4 from three to go along with 11 first half rebounds as well.
ECU struggled with both keeping up with and defending UConn’s offense. The Pirates shot 9-for-38 from the floor as a team, and only 1-for-7 from three point territory in the first half. UConn on the other hand shot 20-for-37 from the field and 6-for-12 from downtown. ECU forced nine first half turnovers from the Huskies but committed 10 of their own. Monk led the Pirates in scoring with nine points on just 4-for-11 shooting from the field and 1-for-3 from downtown.
The third quarter started very much like the second quarter. After entering the third quarter down by 29, ECU found itself down by 43 points with 5:53 left in the period. The score was 64-21 before the Pirates scored its first point of the second half thanks to a free throw from Chambers. ECU did not get a field goal until there was 2:24 left in the period when freshman Taniyah Thompson knocked down her second field goal in 12 tries. UConn went on a 29-5 run in the third period after that and the Pirates would go into the fourth quarter down 79-26 after trailing 50-21 at halftime.
“It was mostly being able to be more aggressive than they (ECU) were,” UConn women’s head coach Geno Auriemma said. “It took us almost an entire quarter to figure that out but then once we got it going we settled into a really good rhythm and our defense got better and our offense got better.”
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the second half for the Huskies came from freshman guard Anna Makurat. She went on a scoring tangent knocking down five three point baskets in the third period alone.
With the game already decided, Makurat added two more three point baskets in the first minute of the fourth quarter before having her next three point attempt just miss the mark. Makurat went 8-for-10 from three point territory with seven of those threes coming in the third and fourth quarter.
ECU on the other hand would have a quarter similar to the first period. It would score another 16 points in the game like it did in the first quarter but with the game far out of reach it would go down by as much as 60 points and lose in the end 98-42.
“We were getting better up to this point, and I think up until the second quarter of this game I’ve seen strides in this team,” McNeill said. “I thought the first quarter gave us some confidence but I told them I said the game is not just 10 minutes, it’s 40 minutes and we only played 10 minutes.”
Williams led the way for the Huskies with 26 points, and Makurat added 24 points to help complete the onslaught against ECU offensively. While UConn did dominate offensively they did a good job of forcing ECU’s players to miss shots especially when it came to its top two scorers on Saturday.
Monk finished the game with 17 points to lead the way for the Pirates on 7-for-21 shooting from the field and just 1-for-7 from downtown. Thompson was the only other Pirate to score in double figures by finishing with 10 points on 5-for-18 shooting from the floor.
“UConn is very physical, and they do a very good job defensively of not allowing you to do what you want to do. They run you, they bump you off cuts, they don’t allow you to get the ball, they don’t allow you to reverse it, we talked about that and we put in some things today that we thought would help eliminate some of that but at the end of the day we put a lot on those two kids’ shoulders,” McNeill said. “You look at our starting lineup and they’re the only two that scored, that’s not acceptable.”
UConn went 37-for-62 from the floor as a team, and 15-for-25 from distance. ECU on the other hand went just 18-for-70 from the field, and 1-for-13 from three point territory. The only three the Pirates made came from the halfcourt shot at the end of the first period. ECU got outscored 34-20 in points in the paint and 39-15 in bench production. The Huskies also had 19 more assists than the Pirates (28-9).
The second and third quarters really hurt the Pirates. They got outscored 57-10 in those two periods while in the first and fourth quarters, ECU got outscored 41-32. McNeill is ready to move on and focus on its next opponent.
“At this point you know today it is what it is, we move on, we don’t talk about it anymore,” McNeill said. “It’s about just continuing to get better, being a better half court executing team, being able to turn those turnovers into points for us, learning how to be better in transition, stop the silly fouling, keep people off the free throw line, so you have to find small victories and those are the small victories that we’re looking for.”
This was the first time that McNeill matched up with Auriemma despite coaching in the same state as Auriemma when she was coaching at the University of Hartford. Auriemma spoke on the conversation he and McNeill had before the game about where the Pirates could end up because of her coaching history.
“We talked before the game a little bit about how she’s been in this situation before where you’ve got to start at the beginning and you have little victories,” Auriemma said. “Sometimes it’s not about winning the game but it’s about winning certain possessions in the game and about doing some things that set you up down the road. I think that’s what is going to happen here. She will get her message across and I won’t be surprised if some of the same success she had at Hartford translates to down here.”
ECU will look for its first conference win on Tuesday at home when it will host the University of Memphis (10-9, 1-5 AAC). Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.