East Carolina Plays Host to No. 23/25 Middle Tennessee

Abria Trice

Feb. 25, 2014

Game 27: No. 23/25 Middle Tennessee at East Carolina
Date Wednesday, February 26
Time 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Location Greenville, N.C. | Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum
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The Game
The East Carolina women’s basketball team returns to Williams Arena inside Minges Coliseum to play host to Conference USA leader No. 23/25 Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, February 26. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. All fans in attendance are encouraged to “Paint it Purple.”    

The Series
The Pirates and the Blue Raiders will meet for the first time in program history. Middle Tennessee joined Conference USA at the start of the 2013-14 school year. The Blue Raiders previously competed in the Sun Belt Conference.

Last Time Out
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. 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 a career-best 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. 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, however, as the Miners battled back to tie the game and eventually take a 33-31 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Pirates kicked off the second half with a three-pointer off the hands of Payne to give ECU a 34-33 lead, but UTEP did not take long to counter as the Miners regained the lead and kept the Pirates at bay for the ensuing minutes. The second half saw the conference rivals trade 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.

About the Pirates
East Carolina is looking to get back on the winning track after dropping back-to-back contests to UTSA (61-60) and UTEP (81-74) last week. The Pirates have won five of their last seven games and own a 21-5 overall record and a 9-4 ledger in Conference USA. The Pirates own a scoring offense of 72.7 points per game and their defense limits opponents to 60.8 points per game which ranks second in the conference and in the top 50 in the nation. ECU is a defensively strong team that limits teams to 35.4-percent shooting from the field which leads the conference and ranks 17th in the NCAA. The Pirates’ three-point field goal percent defense of 25.5 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 16th in the NCAA. ECU’s steals per game average of 11.0 ranks tops the league and is ninth in the nation. ECU is led offensively by redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne who averages 19.3 points per game to rank sixth in the league. She also leads the Pirates in rebounding with 7.5 boards per game for 10th place in the conference. Payne has contributed 43 assists, 37 steals, and four blocks on the year. Redshirt junior guard Abria Trice is the team’s second leading scorer with 15.9 points per game to go along with 5.0 rebounds per game, a team-best 46 steals, 36 assists and 16 blocks. Redshirt junior post Ondrea Shaw leads East Carolina with 85 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 tied for 12th in the league, 3.4 points per game, 29 steals and 14 assists.

Scouting the Blue Raiders
No. 23/25 Middle Tennessee enters Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum as the top team in Conference USA as the Blue Raiders own a 23-4 overall record and are 12-1 in league action. The Blue Raiders are riding a five-game winning streak and have won 22 of their last 23 games. Middle Tennessee’s only conference loss came against Southern Miss when the Blue Raiders dropped a 68-56 decision to the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Blue Raiders are shooting 40-percent from the field and average 67.1 points per game. The Middle Tennessee defense has limited opponents to just 54.9 points per game which leads the conference. Additionally, the Blue Raiders hold their counterparts to just 36.4-percent shooting which is good for second in the league only behind East Carolina. Middle Tennessee’s three-point field goal percent defense is third in C-USA as the Blue Raiders hold opponents to 28-percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Blue Raiders hold a slight edge in rebounding as they average 41.2 boards per game, while their opponents average 37.6. Middle Tennessee also averages 12.9 assists per game, 8.6 steals per game and 1.9 blocks per game. Ebony Rowe is the Blue Raiders’ leading scorer as she averages 21.2 points per game to rank second in the conference. The senior forward averages a double-double as she also leads the team with 11.9 rebounds per game. Rowe adds 61 assists, 35 steals and a team-leading 19 blocks. Freshman forward Olivia Jones is the team leader in steals as she has collected 63 on the season. Jones also contributes 8.7 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game to go along with 54 assists and two blocks. Junior guard Shanice Cason leads the Blue Raiders with 71 assists and also registers 7.9 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 42 steals and four 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), ninth in steals per game (11.0), 16th in blocked shots per game (5.4), 17th in field goal percent defense (35.4), 24th in rebounding margin (+8.0), 25th in win-loss percentage (80.8), 31st in scoring margin (+11.9), 42nd in free throw percentage (73.8), and 48th in scoring defense (60.8).

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 three double-figure scorers in redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne, redshirt junior guard Abria Trice, and junior forward Shae Nelson. Payne leads the Pirates with 19.3 points per game, while Trice averages 15.9, and Nelson owns 10.5. Payne’s and Trice’s averages rank sixth and 10th, respectively, in the conference. As a team, ECU owns a scoring offense of 72.7 to rank fourth in the league, while the Pirates limit their opponents to 60.8 points per game for a scoring margin of +11.9 which ranks 31st in the nation.

Getting Defensive
A defensively strong team, East Carolina has limited its opponents to 60.8 points per game, while averaging 72.7 points per game for a scoring margin of +11.9. The Pirates’ scoring defense ranks second in the conference and their scoring margin is good for fourth. The marks are also ranked 31st (scoring margin) and 48th (scoring defense) in the NCAA, respectively. Additionally, the Pirates have collected 285 steals to average 11.0 per game to lead the league and place ninth in the nation. ECU has also forced their counterparts into 520 turnovers to average 20.0 per game. The Pirates have put up 140 blocks to average 5.4 per game which leads the league and ranks 16th in the nation.

Thanks For the Assistance
The Pirates have dished out 362 assists this season to average 13.9 per game which ranks fourth in Conference USA. Junior guard Janesha Ebron is the team-leader with 130 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 1,141 rebounds to average 43.9 per game which ranks 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 31st in the nation. Redshirt sophomore forward Jada Payne leads the team with 194 rebounds for an average of  7.5 boards per game.

Pirates Plunder, Pillage, and Steal
Like their namesake, the Pirates are known for steals. ECU has grabbed 285 steals this season to average 11.0 per game which is tops in Conference USA and ranks ninth in the NCAA. The Pirates have forced their opponents into 20.0 turnovers per game and own a turnover margin of +0.7. Redshirt junior guard Abria Trice leads the Pirates with 46 steals to average 1.8 per game to tie for 11th in the league.

Block Party
ECU has put up 140 blocks to average 5.4 per game which leads Conference USA statistics and is good for 16th in the nation. The Pirates have limited their opponents to 3.5 blocks per game on the year. Junior post Ondrea Shaw leads the team with 85 blocks for an average of 3.3 blocks per game which leads the conference and ranks her 10th in the NCAA. With 85 blocks, Shaw is ranked third in the ECU single-season record book and just 10 blocks away from tying for first.

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 plays its last regular season home contest against Tulsa on Saturday, March 1 at Williams Arena inside Minges Coliseum at 5 p.m. Live stats, video and audio will be available on ECUPirates.com.