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Pirates face tough two-game trip

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ECU's #11, Raven Johnson goes for a shot during their game against SMU Saturday afternoon, Jan. 7th, 2017.

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By Ronnie Woodward
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Only three American Athletic Conference women's basketball teams won their first two AAC games this season.

East Carolina has played one, opening its league slate with a blowout loss at No. 1 Connecticut, and it faces the other two in succession on the road, beginning tonight at 7 against Temple. ECU plays at South Florida on Saturday.

The Owls (11-3, 2-0) have a seven-game win streak, highlighted by a 10-point win over a ranked DePaul team and Sunday's 86-71 victory over Tulane. Temple is 6-0 at home.

On Saturday, ECU (10-6, 1-2) also got a big win and stopped a three-game losing skid thanks to a late rally for a 58-57 victory over SMU, which had won four straight. Now comes what will likely be a more difficult AAC matchup for the Pirates, who are 1-3 in road games.

"You just can't afford to have a night where you don't feel like playing, or it will get really ugly really fast,” ECU coach Heather Macy said of the American. “I love this league. It's a great league and we're looking forward to bringing it and competing in it."

Senior guard Fanni Csutoras hurt her knee diving after a loose ball on Saturday and did not travel with the team to Temple.

Csutoras started in place of Antoinette Bannister for the first time this season and played well early in the contest. Bannister hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.3 seconds remaining, and a steady dose of inside baskets by Kristen Gaffney and Bre McDonald also helped the Pirates outscore SMU 14-7 during the final eight minutes.

"We tried to do a great job keeping the energy up, especially after Fanni went down," Bannister said. "We all told her we had her back."

Senior point guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, the Owls’ leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, played all 40 minutes against Tulane and finished with 20 points, 13 assists and seven turnovers. Teammate Alliya Butts had 21 points thanks in part to going 4-of-7 from 3-point range and making all five of her free throw attempts.

Temple is third in the American in scoring (73.2 ppg) and East Carolina is fifth (65.8).

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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