The Pirates Continue Their Texas Road Swing at UTEP

UABSPORTS.COM Tatiana Chapple
Tatiana Chapple

Feb. 21, 2014

Game 26: East Carolina at UTEP
Date Saturday, February 22
Time 9:00 p.m. (ET)
Location El Paso, Texas
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The Game
The East Carolina women's basketball team continues its Texas road swing as the Pirates head to El Paso to take on UTEP on Saturday, February 22. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET.

The Series
The Pirates and the Miners will meet for the ninth time in program history and the all-time series is knotted at 4-4. East Carolina is looking for its first win over UTEP since 2010 as the Miners have been victorious over the Pirates in the last three meetings. Last season, the Miners defeated ECU, 81-66, at the Don Haskins Center. The last time East Carolina held off UTEP was on February 11, 2010, when the Pirates claimed a 64-54 victory over the Miners at Williams Arena inside Minges Coliseum.

Last Time Out
East Carolina had its five-game winning streak snapped by UTSA on Thursday night as the Roadrunners defeated the Pirates, 61-60, in San Antonio, Texas. The Roadrunners took advantage of the Pirates' foul trouble as UTSA scored 27 points from the free throw line after ECU racked up 31 fouls and saw two starters in Janesha Ebron and Ondrea Shaw foul out. UTSA's Tesha Smith tallied 18 points with 10 coming off of free throws, while Kamra King notched 17 points with 13 of those coming from the charity stripe. ECU's Shae Nelson led all scorers with 21 points as she went 7-for-16 from the field, 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. Jada Payne registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while adding one assist, one steal, and one block. Shaw finished the contest with a game-high five blocks to go along with four rebounds and three steals. UTSA out-shot ECU 32-percent to 30.2-percent in the contest. Despite UTSA scoring more points from the free throw line, the Pirates owned a higher shooting percentage as ECU connected on 17-of-20 free throws for 85-percent shooting. UTSA shot 64.3-percent from the charity stripe as the Roadrunners went 27-for-42. The contest was a back-and-forth affair that saw East Carolina hold a three-point (30-27) advantage at halftime. The second half was much of the same, however, the Pirates were hampered by fouls and eventually dropped a 61-60 decision to UTSA.

About the Pirates
East Carolina is looking to get back on the winning track after dropping a 61-60 contest to UTSA on Thursday night. The Pirates have won five of their last six games and own a 21-4 overall record and a 9-3 ledger in Conference USA. ECU has reached the 20-win plateau for the eighth time in program history. The Pirates own a scoring offense of 72.7 points per game and their defense limits opponents to 60.0 points per game for a scoring margin of +12.6 which ranks second in the conference and 24th in the nation. ECU is a defensively strong team that limits teams to 35.2-percent shooting from the field which leads the conference and ranks 17th in the NCAA. The Pirates' three-point field goal percent defense of 25.6 also leads the league and is good for sixth in the nation. The Pirates average 5.4 blocked shots per game which is good for first in C-USA and 18th in the NCAA. ECU's steals per game average of 10.8 ranks second in the league and 11th in the nation. ECU is led offensively by redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne who averages 19.6 points per game to rank fifth in the league. She also leads the Pirates in rebounding with 7.4 boards per game for 10th in the conference. Payne has contributed 42 assists, 36 steals, and four blocks on the year. Redshirt junior guard Abria Trice is the team's second leading scorer with 16.3 points per game to go along with 5.0 rebounds per game, a team-best 41 steals, 35 assists and 16 blocks. Redshirt junior post Ondrea Shaw leads East Carolina with 83 blocks to average 3.3 per game which leads C-USA and ranks 10th in the nation. Shaw also adds 7.1 rebounds per game, which is good for 11th in the league, 3.1 points per game, 26 steals and 14 assists.

Scouting the Miners
UTEP is coming off of a 73-64 loss at North Texas last Wednesday which snapped the Miners' seven-game winning streak. UTEP has put together a 20-5 overall record and is 9-3 in Conference USA action. The Miners' three league losses have come at the hands of league-leader Middle Tennessee (69-58), Charlotte (93-86), and North Texas (73-64). As a team, the Miners are shooting 41.3-percent from the field, 31.8-percent from three-point range, and 71.2-percent from the free throw line. UTEP averages 78.9 points per game which ranks second in the conference and the Miners hold their opponents to 65.9 points per game for a scoring margin of +13.0 which is tied for the league lead. UTEP is out-rebounding its counterparts 45.0 - 39.6 and the Miners hold the edge in assists (15.6 - 12.0), steals (10.3 - 7.1), and blocks per game (4.4 - 2.6). The Miners have three double-figure scorers and are led by senior forward Kayla Thornton who averages a double-double with 19.5 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game. Thornton also adds a team-best 58 steals, 48 assists, and 29 blocks. Redshirt sophomore guard Jenzel Nash (11.3 points per game) and junior center Kristine Vitola (10.1 points per game) are UTEP's other double-figure scorers. Vitola also leads the squad in blocks with 57 to go along with 5.2 rebounds per game, 39 assists, and 23 steals. Junior guard Chrishauna Parker is the Miners' leader in assists with 79. She also contributes 7.8 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 47 steals and nine blocks.

Home Sweet Home
Last season, ECU closed out the year with an impressive 14-1 record while playing at Minges Coliseum. After starting the 2013-14 season with a 13-0 record in Greenville, the Pirates have extended their home winning streak to 26 games. East Carolina has not lost a home match in more than a year as the last time the Pirates were defeated inside Minges Coliseum was on November 17, 2012 when they dropped a 72-62 decision to College of Charleston.

In the Nation
In the NCAA's weekly national statistical rankings East Carolina is ranked in the top 50 in nine categories. The Pirates are sixth in the nation in three-point field goal defense (25.5), 11th in steals per game (10.9), 12th in won-loss percentage (87.5), 17th in field goal percent defense (35.3), 24th in scoring margin (+13.2), 24th in rebounding margin (+8.0), 40th in scoring defense (60.0), and 44th in free throw percentage (73.7).

East Carolina reached the 20-win plateau for the eighth time in program history after defeating UAB, 83-73, in overtime at Bartow Arena. The Pirates registered their first back-to-back 20-win season since the 1986 as the 1984-85 squad tallied a 20-9 record and the 1985-86 team registered a program-best 24 victories. This season, East Carolina registered its 20th victory on February 8th marking the earliest the Pirates have ever reached that feat in ECU women's basketball's 44-year history. Additionally, the Pirates were the first Conference USA squad to reach 20 victories this season.

Pouring In The Points
The Pirates have a pair of double-figure scorers in redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne and redshirt junior guard Abria Trice. Payne leads the Pirates with 19.9 points per game, while Trice averages 16.6. Their averages rank fifth and eighth, respectively, in the conference. As a team, ECU owns a scoring offense of 73.2 to rank fourth in the league, while the Pirates limit their opponents to 60.0 points per game for a scoring margin of +13.2, as both marks rank second in the conference and 24th and 40th, respectively, in the nation.

Getting Defensive
A defensively strong team, East Carolina has limited its opponents to 60.0 points per game, while averaging 73.2 points per game for a scoring margin of +13.2. The Pirates' scoring margin ranks second in the conference as does their scoring defense. The marks are also ranked 24th and 40th in the NCAA, respectively. Additionally, the Pirates have collected 262 steals to average 10.9 per game to rank second in the league and place 11th in the nation. ECU has also forced their counterparts into 481 turnovers to average 20.0 per game. The Pirates have put up 128 blocks to average 5.3 per game which leads the league and ranks 18th in the nation.

Thanks For the Assistance
The Pirates have dished out 340 assists this season to average 14.2 per game which ranks fourth in Conference USA. Junior guard Janesha Ebron is the team-leader with 120 helpers on the year to average 5.0 per game which ranks her fifth in the conference. She also leads C-USA with an assist to turnover ratio of 2.1.

Cleaning Up The Glass
The Pirates have accumulated 1,053 rebounds to average 43.9 per game to rank second in Conference USA. In holding their opponents to 35.9 rebounds per game, the Pirates own a rebounding margin of +8.0 which leads C-USA and is good for 24th in the nation. Redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne leads the team with 176 rebounds for an average of 7.3 boards per game.

Pirates Plunder, Pillage, and Steal
Like their namesake, the Pirates are known for steals. ECU has grabbed 262 steals this season to average 10.9 per game which is tops in Conference USA and ranks 11th in the NCAA. The Pirates have forced their opponents into 20.0 turnovers per game and own a turnover margin of +1.0. Redshirt junior guard Abria Trice leads the Pirates with 41 steals to average 1.7 per game to tie for 14th in the league.

Block Party
ECU has put up 128 blocks to average 5.3 per game which leads Conference USA statistics and is good for 18th in the nation. The Pirates have limited their opponents to 3.4 blocks per game on the year. Junior post Ondrea Shaw leads the team with 78 blocks for an average of 3.3 blocks per game which leads the conference and ranks her 10th in the NCAA. With 78 blocks, Shaw is ranked third in the ECU single-season record book.

C-USA Freshman of the Week
On Monday, December 16, freshman guard J'Kyra Brown earned her first-ever Conference USA Freshman of the Week honor for her performance at the ULM Warhawk Classic. Brown helped the Pirates to a 1-1 record and an appearance in the Warhawk Classic championship game after averaging 10.5 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, 1.0 assists per game, 0.5 steals per game, and 0.5 blocks per game. She finished the weekend shooting 53.8-percent from the field, 57.1-percent from beyond the arc, and was 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Brown poured in 18 points in the Pirates' 85-42 victory over Alcorn State last Friday to secure ECU's place in the championship contest. She earned the honors along with Takia Brooks of Florida Atlantic and Tamara Jones of Southern Miss who took home Co-Player of the Week accolades. Brown is the first Pirate to collect the award this season.

The "New" Conference USA
Conference USA was one of the many conferences that saw realignments over the summer. July 1, 2013 marked the addition of Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, and UTSA to C-USA. While the conference expanded with the eight new member institutions, it also parted ways with Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF as all four joined the American Athletic Conference. 2013 will mark the last year of ECU's affiliation with Conference USA as the Pirates will join the American Athletic Conference beginning next season.

• Senior post Ariana Jackson will be out for the season due to an injury.

Coming Up...
East Carolina returns to Greenville, N.C., to play host to Conference USA leader Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, February 26. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Live stats, video and audio will be available on