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ECU cooled off in AAC opener

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East Carolina's Dominique Claytor, left, has her shot blocked by Cincinnati's Imar'i Thomas on Saturday in Minges Coliseum.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, December 30, 2017

An East Carolina women’s basketball team seeking a milestone victory and to keep its surge going couldn’t get by a Cincinnati squad on Saturday that was well-rested and led wire-to-wire in Minges Coliseum.

Cincy scored the first 10 points of the second half to spark a 66-54 victory in Minges Coliseum in the league opener for both squads. The Bearcats (9-5) shot 53.3 percent from the field after halftime to secure the victory in their first game since Dec. 21.

ECU (8-6), which closed its nonconference slate by going 7-1 in eight games, trailed by as many as 20 points late in the third quarter before rallying to a seven-point deficit in the fourth.

“Defensively is how we have won the games that we’ve won, so we have to continue to stay with that,” Pirate coach Heather Macy said. “They average 70 points a game and we held them right under their average, so defensively we were right where we needed to be to be in the game. But offensively, we must shoot it better.”

Macy came in tied with Sharon Baldwin-Tener with 126 victories for the most all-time with the Pirates. ECU will now host No. 1 Connecticut on Wednesday and then is at Memphis next weekend.

ECU leading scorer Ariyana Williams, a freshman guard averaging 12.1 points per game, was held to six points on 3-of-8 shooting. Salita Greene, Destiny Campbell and Mickayla Sanders each scored eight, and it was Cincinnati that got four scorers in double-figures and was led by Ana Owens’ 18.

Greene also had nine rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

The AAC preseason poll tabbed Cincinnati as the No. 8 team in the league and East Carolina last in 12th place.

“The effort was really incredible, but in the American conference it takes way more than just effort,” Macy said. “It’s going to take recognition and it’s going to take execution. Tonight, in those two areas we were not very good.”

Four free throws early in the third quarter pushed Cincy’s advantage to double digits at 33-22. An Owens jumper made it 39-22 with 7:19 left in the period.

The first points of the game came on a Cincinnati 3-pointer, setting the tone for UC to win for only the second time against the Pirates in the last nine games of the series.

The Bearcats went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first quarter and their fourth attempt was also a make, when Owens swished from the wing for a 21-16 lead with 5:30 until halftime. It was 29-22 at the break.

UC junior guard Nikira Goings, who is one of the best shooters in the American and suffered a leg injury during the third quarter, made both of her 3-point attempts during the first half and finished the game with 10 points in 18 minutes.

The Pirates were 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half and they finished 2-of-14.

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

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