UNCASVILLE, Conn. (ECU Media Relations) – Jada Payne reached yet another milestone by crossing the 2,000-career point barrier as the eighth-seeded East Carolina women’s basketball team eliminated ninth-seeded Cincinnati, 70-61, in the first round of the 2016 American Athletic Conference Championship on Friday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Payne led all players with 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, nine rebounds and three steals, marking the 17th time she has scored at least 20 points in a game this season. The Hickory, N.C., now has 2,013-career points (1,741 in three seasons at ECU) for her four-year career.
I’Tiana Taylor added 15 points, while Marina Laramie contributed 10 points and nine rebounds. Khadidja Toure handed out a game-high six assists without committing a turnover, tying her season-high.
ECU will face top-seeded and No. 1 ranked UConn in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
East Carolina (13-18, 6-12 AAC) made its first three shots of the game to open up an early 7-2 advantage after a three by DeVaughn Gray at the 8:19 mark. The Bearcats cut their deficit to three, 10-7, after Jasmine Whitfield knocked down a three-pointer with 6:32 to go, but struggled to keep the offense in tune with five turnovers in the period – four on traveling violations – as ECU held a 16-11 lead through the first 10 minutes of action.
The Pirates created their first double-digit advantage of the game, 23-13, on a layup by Taylor, forcing Cincinnati (8-22, 4-14 AAC) to call a timeout with 6:37 remaining in the half. East Carolina would score nine more points as part of a 13-0 scoring run to create a 32-13 lead down to the 2:55 mark, but the Bearcats scored six unanswered points of their own before Toure knocked down a three-pointer to send the purple and gold into the halftime intermission with a 35-21 margin in its favor.
ECU shot 15-for-33 (.455) from the field, 3-for-10 (.300) beyond the three-point line and made both of its two free throw attempts in the first half, while Cincinnati shot 9-for-27 (.333) on the floor, 3-for-9 (.333) from deep and missed its one chance at the foul stripe.
The Bearcats were able to cut their deficit to just nine points, 42-33, with 5:21 to go in the third quarter, but a quick 8-2 spurt by the Pirates over the subsequent two minutes brought the margin back to 15 points.
Leading 54-44 after three quarters, East Carolina was not clear of striking distance. Cincinnati’s Alyesha Lovett scored 10 points in the fourth period alone, including a three with 4:54 left to bring the game within three points, 60-57. Payne would seal the game almost single-handedly however, making three-straight baskets and a pair of free throws in the final three minutes to close out the nine-point victory.
ECU finished the game shooting 26-for-60 (.433) overall, 5-for-19 (.263) beyond the perimeter and 13-for-18 (.722) at the free throw line. The Bearcats shot 25-for-60 (.417) from the field, 8-for-22 (.364) from three and 3-for-5 (.600) at the foul stripe.
The Pirates committed just 10 turnovers as a team and held a 10-4 edge in points off turnovers. Cincinnati owned advantages in points off turnovers (11-8) and bench scoring (11-5).
Whitfield led the Bearcats with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 5-for-9 from three-point range. Lovett finished the day with 12 points and Bianca Quisenberry also chipped in 12.