Poor shooting in the third quarter doomed the East Carolina women’s basketball team to its tenth straight loss as it fell to Memphis on the road, 72-50, Wednesday night.
Trailing 38-35 at halftime, ECU (10-16, 1-12 AAC) lacked energy when play resumed in the third quarter. The Pirates managed to score only five points on 2-for-14 shooting (14.3 percent) in the third. On the other hand, Memphis (13-12, 6-6 AAC) poured in 17 points in third quarter on 6-for-12 shooting (50 percent). At one point in the quarter, ECU’s lethargic play led to four turnovers in a two minute span, fueling an 8-0 run by the Tigers.
"I think that we played one of the best first quarters that we have played tonight and probably the worst third quarter we have played all season,” said ECU head coach Heather Macy. “We have got to do a better job of having these really bad quarters that puts us in these holes that you just can’t recover from.”
For the second game in a row, every player for ECU scored at least one basket, but graduate transfer forward Kristen Gaffney was the only Pirate to score in double-figures. She finished with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting (38.5 percent), and four rebounds. Freshman guard Raven Johnson chipped in with eight points on 4-for-11 shooting (36.4 percent), and eight rebounds, her career high. As a team, the Pirates shot 21-for-57 from the field (36.8 percent), below their season average of 40.3 percent.
Memphis was led by junior forward Cheyenne Creighton and senior guard Taylor Williams, who both finished with 19 points. Creighton was a force in the paint, making eight of her 11 shots (72.7 percent) and grabbing six rebounds, while also making life difficult for Gaffney on the defensive end. In contrast, Williams did her damage from the perimeter, going 3-for-5 from behind the 3-point line, while also going 6-for-6 on free throws. For the game, Memphis shot 28-for-56 (50.0 percent).
The Tigers started the game firing on all cylinders. They made their first seven shots while playing at a high tempo. What kept ECU in the game at that point was Gaffney’s fast start and Memphis’ turnovers. Gaffney was very active in the opening quarter, scoring eight points and grabbing two offensive rebounds. The Pirates forced Memphis into nine turnovers in the first quarter and turned them into 11 points, while only committing one turnover themselves. The opening quarter ended with ECU in the lead, 24-21, despite the Tigers shooting an impressive 76.9 percent, compared to the Pirates 47.6 percent.
“I thought that the pace Kristen Gaffney played with in the first gave everyone else some confidence,” Macy said. “She had 10 points in the first and I tell you, I think that it was the way that she played aggressive on the catch.”
The script was flipped at the start of the second quarter, as four early ECU turnovers enabled the Tigers to go on an 11-2 run. But Memphis went cold, making only one of its nine last shots of the quarter. The Pirates used that cold streak to go on a 6-0 run and retook the lead at 35-34 with just over a minute and a half left in the second quarter. Memphis finished strong though, as a pair of free throws from Williams and a put-back layup from sophomore forward Brianna Porter at the buzzer gave the lead back to the Tigers for good.
Next up, the Pirates go down to Orlando to face Central Florida Saturday afternoon.