HOUSTON (WNCT) – I’Tiana Taylor posted her 14th double-double of the season and Jada Payne eclipsed 1,900-career points as the East Carolina women’s basketball team picked up a 68-59 road win over Houston inside Hofheinz Pavilion on Wednesday evening.
Taylor finished the game with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Payne led all scorers with 21 points. Marina Laramie added 15 points and nine assists, while DeVaughn Gray dished out four assists.
The Cougars placed three scorers in double-digits, led by Tyler Gilbert’s 11 points. Marche Amerson and Serithia Hawkins chipped in 10 points apiece.
Houston (5-19, 1-12 AAC) made its first three field goal attempts to start the night to create an early 8-2 advantage, but the Pirates responded with a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the game, 12-10, on a three-pointer by DeVaughn Gray with 5:53 left in the first quarter. The Cougars drew within one point with 3:07 to play, but ECU shot 9-for14 (.643) overall in the period and closed it with 6-0 run to hold a 21-14 advantage after 10 minutes of play.
East Carolina (9-16, 3-10 AAC) turned up its defensive effort in the second quarter, forcing five turnovers and holding the Cougars to just four baskets. The Pirates shot just 33 percent from the field in the period, but outscored Houston, 13-11, in the frame to take a 34-25 lead into the locker rooms at halftime. All 11 points by the Cougars in the quarter came from non-starters.
ECU shot 15-for-32 (.469) from the floor, 2-for-8 (.250) from three and 2-for-3 (.667) at the free throw line in the first half, while Houston shot a combined 9-for-24 (.375), 2-for-8 (.250) beyond the arc and 5-for-9 (.556) at the foul stripe.
The scoring picked up a bit with the start of the second half, as East Carolina crept its advantage back to double-digits, 38,27, with 6:56 on the clock and created its largest margin of the night – 13 points – after Laramie completed a three-point play with 4:55 to go to put the purple and gold in front, 47-36.
Houston would score nine-straight points down to the 2:11 mark to cut its deficit to just four, 47-43, but a Taylor jumper just 12 seconds later pushed ECU’s advantage back to six as neither side scored another point for the remainder of the period.
The fourth quarter had tense moments as both sides exchanged baskets for much of the first seven minutes, but the Cougars did not fade as they had a response for every Pirate score ad cut their deficit to just three, 59-56, on a three by Hawkins with 4:18 to go.
Hawkins hit a pair of free throws with 2:11 to play to bring Houston within a pair, 61-69, but Gray countered at the other end by converting a three-point play to push the lead back to five. Payne would make all four free throws inside the final 65 seconds to seal East Carolina’s nine-point road victory.
ECU shot 27-for-60 (.450) overall, 2-for-11 (.182) from deep and 12-for-13 (.923) at the free throw line on the night, while Houston shot 20-for-60 (.333) from the field, 4-for-17 (.235) beyond the arc and 15-for-22 (.682) at the foul line.
The Pirates held a 34-22 scoring advantage in the paint and a 40-38 edge in rebounding, while the Cougars held a 20-0 margin in points off the bench.
East Carolina returns to action Saturday, Feb. 20 when it hosts top-ranked Connecticut. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m., at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum and the game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network.