Pirates Drop Heartbreaker to No. 20/17 USF, 61-59

GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU Media Relations) – The East Carolina women’s basketball team suffered a 61-59 defeat to No. 20/17 USF on a last-second shot in American Athletic Conference action at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

Four Pirates scored in double-figures, led by Jada Payne’s 19 points, while I’Tiana Taylor posted her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Khadidja Toure chipped in 10 points, while Marina Laramie added 12.

Both sides played excellent transition defense and contested shots at respective ends of the floor as both sides shot 33 percent from the floor and the Bulls took an 8-5 lead to the first media timeout at the 4:50 mark. USF (8-3, 1-0 AAC) went on to make six of its final eight shots, including a trio of three-pointers to close the period at 50 percent from the floor and carry a 20-14 into the second quarter.

East Carolina (6-8, 0-2 AAC) jumped back into its defense with tactical help-defense and rotation, while getting into its offense at a rapid pace. Toure knocked down a three and Taylor hit a pair of free throws to highlight a 14-2 scoring run that put the Pirates ahead, 26-22, through the media timeout with 4:39 to go. The Bulls cut their deficit to just one, 28-27, with 2:33 remaining, but jumpers by Laramie and Toure, as well as a Payne three at halftime buzzer, gave the Pirates a 34-29 lead heading into the locker rooms at halftime as they outscored the visitors, 20-9, in the quarter.

ECU shot 13-for-29 (.448) overall, 4-for-9 (.444) from beyond the arc and connected on all four free throw attempts, while USF went 11-for-31 (.355) from the field, 4-for-10 (.400) from deep and 3-for-4 (.750) at the line in the first half. ECU also held a 12-5 scoring advantage off the bench and a 19-17 edge in rebounding.

The Bulls regained the lead by one just three minutes into the second half, and pushed their lead to as many as seven as preseason all-conference guard Courtney Williams scored eight points in the period. A three-point play by USF to close the third quarter gave the visitors a 51-44 lead heading into the final frame.

The Bulls created their largest separation on the scoreboard at 11 points after two more free throws made it 55-44 with 8:14 left in the game. The Pirates punched back with a 15-4 run, capped by eight-straight points and a layup by Taylor with just 12 seconds to go to tie the game at 59-all.

USF called a 60-second timeout to draw up a play and get the ball into Williams’ hands, as she drove into the lane with a left-hand dribble before pulling up approximately eight feet from the basket where she sunk the game-winning bucket with one second left on the clock.

ECU finished the day shooting 23-for-61 (.377) overall, 4-for-15 (.267) from three-point range and made all nine free throws, while USF shot 22-for-59 (.373) from the field, 4-for-14 (.286) from deep and 13-for-18 (.722) at the foul line.

The Bulls held a 40-37 edge in rebounding and outscored the Pirates, 34-30, in the paint, while ECU outscored USF, 28-18, off turnovers, 11-8 in second chance baskets and 14-8 off the bench.

Williams led all scorers with 20 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a game-high four steals. Alisia Jenkins compiled a double-double with 14 points and as many boards.

East Carolina will remain home to host Tulane on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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