The difference a month can make to a season is apparent in the East Carolina University women’s basketball team’s 75-62 win over Memphis University on Valentine’s Day, a little more than a month after losing 72-36.
The last time these teams played was on Jan. 6, when Memphis dominated ECU in every facet of the game, handing the Pirates their third straight loss. Now, ECU has won five out of its last seven games, making tomorrow a much different game. According to ECU head coach Heather Macy, it’s also a much different Pirate team.
“We’re better. We have gotten better progressively as the season has gone on,” Macy said.
There are many differences between last month’s loss and this win. It’s clear the time off ECU had made a huge change. Last time ECU had two days between games and Memphis out-rebounded the lackluster Pirates 44-36. This time, ECU had six days between games and out-rebounded the Tigers 42- 35, including 22-8 in offensive rebounds. Coach Macy knows the time off helped rejuvenate her team.
“It’s hugely important," Macy said. “When they’re in the zone it’s much more difficult to box out, and I thought we went and really rebounded it hard.”
Another difference the Pirates have made in the past month is smarter decision-making on both ends of the floor. ECU turned the ball over only 14 times in last weeks win, way down from its season average of 18.5 turnovers per game. The Pirates not only forced the Tigers into 23 turnovers, up from their average of 19.5, but also turned those turnovers into 31 points in transition. For this team particularly, the time off is a big contributor.
“I think with a young team the more we practice, the better,” Macy said. “So it’s been really good to refine a couple things throughout this week.”
A big difference has been the emergence of freshman guard Lashonda Monk. In the first matchup, Monk was not much of a factor and attempted only three shots and recorded just one assist to three turnovers. In the last month, Monk has come on strong, including an American Athletic Conference Rookie-of-the-Week award on Feb. 5, after games against Wichita State and Southern Methodist University. With the Pirates playing without junior starting point guard Alex Frazier, Monk stepped up in her place and filled the need in more ways than one, according to Macy.
“Lashonda’s been able to score it for us the last few games,” Macy said. “For her to be able to control the point guard position tonight the way that she did with things that aren’t going to show up in the stat sheet. Between the huddles and handling it from a defensive perspective, I think she did a nice job and stepped up.”
ECU could not keep up that level of success on Saturday in a 97-81 loss at the University of Houston. Similar to the season series against Memphis, the Pirates won the games at home and lost the games on the road.
Macy understands the biggest challenge to this team could be keeping everyone focused when a lot of things can distract a young team down the stretch, especially on the road.
Moving forward coach Macy knows these final three games are especially important for a young team. The Pirates hope to improve their road play, with two of the final games on the road before the conference tournament in Connecticut. Macy says everyone needs to step up, with freshman acting like sophomores now and juniors acting like seniors. Her mission for the team is simple, she said.
“If we can just continue to focus on that same growth and be a better team in March than we are now sitting in February then we are accomplishing what we want to accomplish,” Macy said.
ECU’s next test of growth will again be on the road as it plays at Tulsa University (9-17, 3-10 AAC) tonight at 8.