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Pirates' surge continues vs. NCCU

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Thais Oliveira (#15) prepares to pass the ball while surrounded by N.C. Central players during a game Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In front of maybe the easiest-to-please crowd in sports, the East Carolina women’s basketball team turned in another performance anyone could enjoy on Thursday against visiting N.C. Central.

With more than 5,000 local students crammed into Minges Coliseum and shrieking with joy befitting the holiday season, the Pirates broke open a briefly close game and pounded the Eagles in a 73-61 rout that marked ECU’s fifth straight victory.

“We aspire to having it this full of students, but not elementary school students. Let’s get the ECU students out here like this and that would be such an incredible every-night atmosphere in Minges Coliseum,” ECU head coach Heather Macy said of the victory in the team’s annual Education Day game.

The Pirates (6-4) trailed 19-15 after the first quarter but opened the second on a staggering 14-2 run that suddenly saw the hosts out front by 10 points, 31-21, with 6:15 to play before halftime.

The lead never changed hands again and in fact reached heights of 26 points (63-37) in the third quarter before NCCU (2-7) dented the deficit to make it respectable in the fourth.

“We just needed to settle down,” Macy said. “In the first quarter I think were we were a little bit rattled with the atmosphere. We settled down in the second and third and looked really good, looked like the basketball team I’ve been working with the last 10 days. We’ve improved over this exam period.”

The Pirates had not played since a win at Kennesaw State on Dec. 4.

Macy’s starters were able to rest for most of the fourth. Three of those five posted double digits in points, led by senior Thais Oliveira’s 18 to go with eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Ariyana Williams and Destiny Campbell added 11 apiece, while Raven Johnson added 10 points, five boards and three steals off the bench.

It was Johnson’s 3-pointer early in the second that gave ECU the lead and fueled the decisive run. The basket was followed by consecutive steals finished at the other end by Williams and Lashonda Monk for a 28-21 edge. Oliveira’s basket and foul inside gave the Pirates their 10-point cushion and the rest was history for the Eagles.

“Her skill set is really good, and she has the ability to hit the mid-range jumper and go to the hole, but she’s also a really good passer,” Macy said of Oliveira, who was 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. “In the way that we want to play offense, she is the prototypical post player.”

Topping Oliveira’s 18 points was NCCU’s Sami Oliver-Alexander, who rifled home seven of her game-high 23 points to open the fourth quarter. Paulina Afriyie added 13 in the loss for the Eagles.

ECU returns to action at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday when the Pirates take on former Conference USA foe UTEP at the Philanthropist.com Carolinas Challenge in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter. 

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