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Hurricane blows past Pirates, 75-55

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East Carolina's Alex Frazier goes up for a shot during a game against Tulsa on Jan. 12, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The East Carolina women’s basketball team tip-toed out of the gate against Tulsa on Saturday afternoon.

The visiting Golden Hurricane roared out, taking a 14-0 lead and never relenting in an easy 75-55 victory in American Athletic Conference action in Minges Coliseum.

The loss for the Pirates (10-6) and the win for the Hurricane (9-7) came on a big day of league play, as Connecticut, Tulane, UCF and Tulsa all entered Saturday's slate with unblemished 2-0 records in the American, while the Pirates were one of four teams to come in at 1-1.

The slow start proved fatal for ECU, especially in facing the formidable forward pairing of Crystal Polk and Desiree Lewis, who scored 22 and 16 points, respectively, to account for more than half of the visiting team’s points. Polk added a game-high 14 rebounds and Lewis 13 boards to give both double-doubles.

“They had a tremendous impact on what we were trying to do,” acting ECU head coach Nicole Mealing said of the duo. “They scored, I think, half of their team’s points, so I think we have to do a better job of defending post players, period. It’s going to be a long season for us if we can’t guard posts.”

The Pirates had a trio of double-digit scorers, led by Raven Johnson’s 17 points and 11 from Lashonda Monk, and Alex Frazier posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. But the senior said she knows her team must be ready and not get ready for conference contenders like Tulsa, which held a comfortable 60-43 edge after three quarters.

The Pirates struggled to find a rhythm that produced points in the first half, trailing 42-28 at the intermission after Tulsa opened the game on a blistering 14-point run that left the Pirates trying to shoot their way back into the game.

That meant not only conquering Tulsa's bigs in their zone defense but also trying to keep them from scoring easy inside baskets at the other end.

“They started out on a 14-0 run, and I think we cut it to 10 at one point (three times in the second quarter), but they hit a couple of shots to get that lead back up, so our players understand that for us, we’ve got to come out ready to go from the jump,” Mealing said. “We’re not good enough to just come in and be relaxed.”

Tulsa finished with a 58-41 advantage on the glass.

Polk pounded home 10 of her points and pulled in seven rebounds in the paint while Lewis added seven points and five boards in the first half.

ECU got 10 first-half points from Johnson on 4-of-8 shooting, followed by seven from Necole Hope.

The Pirates scored their first basket of the game almost four full minutes into the opening quarter following a timeout. Two great looks from Justice Gee to Johnson were part of an 8-0 Pirate run that made it 20-14, and the teams traded 3-pointers to close out the first with the Hurricane leading 26-17.

Second-chance points by Tulsa highlighted the second quarter and kept the Pirates at a safe distance. Three key baskets in the quarter were offensive putbacks by Lewis, Addison Richards and a third-chance 3 by Alexis Gaulden that reinstated a 10-point edge for the Hurricane with 4 minutes left before halftime.

A shot from distance by KK Rodriguez closed the half with Tulsa in control.

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

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