East Carolina Falls at UTEP, 81-74

UABSPORTS.COM J'Kyra Brown scored a team-high 16 points on Saturday.
J'Kyra Brown scored a team-high 16 points on Saturday.

Feb. 23, 2014

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EL PASO, Texas - East Carolina dropped an 81-74 decision to UTEP as the Miners shot 54.5-percent in the second half to hand the Pirates their first back-to-back losses of the season. The Pirates fall to 21-5 overall and 9-4 in Conference USA action, as the Miners improve to 21-5 on the year and 10-3 in league play.

Shae Nelson and J'Kyra Brown led East Carolina offensively as they each tallied a team-high 16 points. Nelson added four rebounds and two steals, while Brown contributed three boards and one assist. Jada Payne posted 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Ondrea Shaw rounded out the Pirates' double-figure scorers with 10 points to go along with six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Janesha Ebron tied her career-high as she dished out nine assists while adding seven rebounds, six points, and one steal in the setback.

UTEP also had four double-figure scorers and Kayla Thornton led the way with a game-high 23 points to go along with a game-high nine rebounds as she narrowly missed a double-double. Jenzel Nash poured in 22 points for UTEP while adding three steals and two assists. Kelli Willingham (15 points) and Sparkle Taylor (10 points) also scored in double digits for the Miners.

East Carolina opened the game with seven straight points and did not allow UTEP to score until the 17:26 mark. The Pirates' seven-point advantage was short-lived as the Miners battled back to tie the game at 10-all with 13:15 on the clock. UTEP went on to take its first lead of the game, 14-12, at 11:58 on a layup from Jenzel Nash. The Miners held the Pirates scoreless for nearly three minutes as they took an 18-12 advantage. East Carolina would not go quietly as Abria Trice broke the scoring drought with a jumper followed by a three-pointer from Brown to pull ECU within one (18-17) at 9:02. Brown managed to even the score at 20-20 with another three at 6:56, but Nash would counter with a three of her own to give the Miners a 23-20 advantage. UTEP would hold the edge on East Carolina for the remainder of the first half taking a 33-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Despite trailing UTEP at halftime, East Carolina held the advantage in shooting as the Pirates shot 35.5-percent from the field while the Miners shot 31.4-percent. The Pirates' defense only allowed the Miners to connect on one three-point field goal as UTEP went 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half for a shooting percentage of 7.7. The Pirates also out-rebounded the Miners in the frame, 26-20, and held the edge in assists, 6-3.

The Pirates kicked off the second half with a three pointer off the hands of Payne to give East Carolina a 34-33 lead. UTEP did not take long to counter, regaining the lead and holding the Pirates at bay for the ensuing minutes. Shaw made her way under the basket and laid it in to put ECU back up 45-44 with 13:29 on the clock. From that point on, the conference rivals traded points as the back-and-forth contest saw 11 ties and seven lead changes. UTEP took a 66-64 lead that would prove to be the final lead change of the contest as the Miners held off the Pirates 81-74.

ECU shot 39.7-percent in the contest, while UTEP shot 40.4-percent. The Pirates out-rebounded the Miners 47 to 30 and also held the advantage in assists, 14-11, and steals, 15-11. However, East Carolina turned the ball over 32 times in the contest and UTEP took advantage as the Miners tallied 34 points off of turnovers.

East Carolina looks to get back on the winning track as the Pirates return to Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday, February 26, when they play host to Conference USA leader Middle Tennessee. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Live stats, video and audio will be available on ECUPirates.com.