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Hope(ful) East Carolina stuns Houston with game-winner

In its annual Play for Kay showdown, East Carolina hosted Houston. The Pirates and Cougars went back and forth the majority of the game, but it was East Carolina’s Necole Hope who came up big to bring home the victory.

Karlie Smith/Swish Appeal

Greenville, N.C — An exciting “Power6” American Athletic Conference contest took place tonight in Willliams Arena between the Houston Cougars and the East Carolina University Pirates.

Both teams brought everything they had tonight, but the Pirates gave a little more, grinding out an 80-78 overtime win over the Cougars. East Carolina’s freshman Necole Hope shined in the spotlight as she made the game-winning layup with a few ticks left on the clock.

“I was ready,” Hope stated after the game on her ability to be a huge spark for East Carolina.

Sometimes that’s all it takes for a team to win on game day. Show up and be ready. Today that team was East Carolina.

The game also served as ECU’s annual Play for Kay showcase. Former legendary coach NC State Women’s basketball, Kay Yow, graduated from East Carolina and passed away years ago from breast cancer. The ECU players wore pink in her honor and fans received pink Pirate paraphernalia.

The first half was somewhat of a dogfight, with the Pirates refusing to back down. In the first period, the Cougars took over the lead early and maintained. However, on the court, ECU's Alex Frazier brought the energy sending a spark through the entire Pirate bench.

Despite the momentum switch, Houston walked into the second quarter with a 19-16 lead.

Houston's Jasmyne Harris was 3-for-4 on free throws along with Serithia Hawkins, showing their aggressive offensive philosophy. Yet, a few clutch three-pointers from Hope kept the Pirates alive.

With 30 seconds left on the clock before half, a layup by Justice Gee tied the game 39 all. But, a foul from the Pirates sent Angela Harris to the line as she extended Houston’s lead by two, 41-39.

Starting off the third, ECU took full advantage of the momentum shift, propelling their team on an early run. The Pirates took their first lead of the game, 43-42, with 8:25 left in the third. The Pirates’ bench was undeniably the reason for the energy swing.

ECU head coach Heather Macy was very pleased with the relentless performance exhibited up and down her roster.

“Bench is a loose term,” said Macy. “I always mix up the rotation and we’re always changing the starting five.”

Throughout the third, Hope remained fierce towards the rim and with two minutes left ECU had outscored Houston 19-12 in the third period.

Houston head coach Ronald Hughey definitely noticed his team's lack of effort in the third.

“We didn’t play with the same amount of intensity, urgency, and energy that we normally play with,” said Hughey.

At the start of the fourth, ECU held a 58-53 lead.

A back and forth pace embodied the final quarter but, with nine seconds left in regulation, Frazier fouled the Cougars’ Hawkins, sending her to the line to shoot two as Houston trailed 69-67.

Confidently, she knocked down both attempts to bring the game even at 69. The Pirates tried to win the game on a three after a timeout but were unsuccessful as were the Cougars in their final attempt, forcing the game into overtime.

The extra period was similar to the fourth stanza as the two teams traded baskets, but it was ECU’s spark plug, Hope, who lifted her team to the two-point victory, 80-78. She finished a lay-up off of a backdoor pass and even though Houston raced down the floor for one more shot from Dorian Branch, it was Hope who collected the final rebound off the miss to secure the win.

Overall, ECU shot 45% from the field compared to a 31.8% performance by the Cougars. For the Pirates, Salita Green scored 12 points, Density Campbell had 10 points and Hope had 18 points (7-of-9 shooting) on the night.

For Houston, Hawkins had 22 points, Jasmyne Harris contributed 21, Branch added 13 and Angela Harris with 11.

“We thought we worked this hard to put ourselves in the top half of the conference. To come up flat against a team that’s still trying to find themselves, we dropped one,” said a disappointed coach Hughey.

“Looking ahead we need to sure up our sense of urgency and mentality. Especially coming off of a game at Temple where we were lights out.”

Houston is now 15-6 on the season and 4-3 in the AAC. ECU is 10-9 n the season and 2-4 in the American.

Following this match-up, Houston will continue to play against SMU, while ECU goes toe-to-toe with Tulsa.

HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM! East Carolina defeats the Cougars 80-78 in an OT thriller.

Posted by Swish Appeal Staff on Saturday, January 20, 2018