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Pirates upend Upstate, 63-53

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East Carolina's Raven Johnson, left, and Salita Greene celebrate during their game against Wake Forest on Nov. 24, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Things only fell into place in spurts for the East Carolina women’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon, but the Pirates cashed in on those surges to upend South Carolina Upstate, 63-53 in Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates (7-2) build a big early lead but found themselves in a one-point battle by halftime and in a 38-38 tie after three quarters. They rode a 25-15 edge through the fourth, however, led by Salita Greene’s explosion that helped put the game away.

She scored 12 of her game-high 18 points off the bench in the fourth quarter, hitting multiple looks from the floor while also connecting on key free throws in the final period. Greene also bagged nine rebounds to finish one away from a double-double, while teammate Destiny Campbell also blossomed in the fourth and finished a point away from a double-double with nine to go with 11 boards. Lashonda Monk added 11 points in the win.

“We were able to get a group together and started playing with more energy, and we were able to get some rebounds and get out in transition,” ECU interim head coach Chad Killinger said of his team’s decisive late stretch. “We were moving the ball better and getting the ball inside. In the second quarter, we got a little jump-shot happy, and a lot of our shots were from the perimeter and obviously we weren’t shooting the ball very well from the perimeter today.”

Killinger praised his team’s effort to shake that trend by getting to the line 23 times, going 13-for-23 from the stripe compared with just 3-for-10 by the Spartans, who shot 30.4 percent for the game compared with ECU’s 38.1.

For Upstate (3-7), Brianna Lewis scored 18 points but had a game-high eight turnovers, and she was complemented by a 12-point, 15-rebound performance from Riley Popplewell.

Greene hit pair of free throws to open the fourth, effectively breaking the final tie of the afternoon in a game that saw four official lead changes. Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer made it 45-41 before Greene connected consecutive times inside for an eight-point edge, 49-41. Alex Frazier’s basket restored a 10-point lead at 51-41.

“I felt like we had a void that I had to fill,” Greene said of her performance. “We were shooting a lot of jump shots and I knew we needed to attack the basket more, so I just tried to focus offensively on attacking the basket more.”

ECU was a paltry 1-of-14 on 3-pointers, while Upstate finished 3-of-11.

Despite ECU building an early lead as large as 13 points after opening the game on a 15-2 run, Upstate steadily cut into the deficit, and at the halftime buzzer the Spartans were actively vying for their first lead of the afternoon, down just a point at 23-22.

Upstate was already climbing back into the contest by the end of the first quarter, trailing 17-11 at that point thanks to a 9-2 run by the visitors to close the opening period.

The Pirates had six scorers on the sheet at halftime, with Monk's six points leading the way ahead of four each from Necole Hope, Johnson and Greene.

ECU shot 38 percent in the half compared with Upstate's unsteady 30.8 percent. The Spartans got seven points from Lewis in the first half and outscored the Pirates 11-6 in the second quarter.

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

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