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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, February 22, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Ladies shifting into high gear

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Pick a cliché — peaking at the right time, hitting on all cylinders, finding their rhythm — and the Lady Pirate basketball team seems to be the embodiment of it right now.

Need proof? Consider the milestones the team reached in its 85-82 win over UAB Thursday night:

  • Junior guard Lacoya Terry scored 35 points, setting a career high and vaulting over the Conference USA single-game record of 31, set in November by Rice’s Valeriya Berezhynska.

  • Junior guard Jasmine Young notched her third career double-double with 10 points and a career-best 13 assists.

  • The victory marked East Carolina's third home win in a row and gave the Lady Pirates a 7-6 Conference USA record with three games remaining before the conference tournament. With victories over Memphis, Houston and Rice, they could achieve their goal of finishing in the top four of the conference and earning a first-round bye for the tournament, which will be held March 6-9 in Orlando.

The team’s offensive productivity may have reached new heights in the win over the Blazers, but the true star of the game was the defense, said ECU coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener. After a dizzying first half that saw 10 ties, nine lead changes and 57 percent shooting efficiency from UAB, Baldwin-Tener challenged her players at halftime to focus on one thing: Stopping the formidable UAB shooters.

The Lady Pirates responded by holding their opponent to under 40 percent in the second half.

“In the first half I thought our defense was awful, that we gave them too many open looks,” Baldwin-Tener said. “Our defense was what won the game.”

“We knew we had to step it up because they’re a great offensive team,” said Terry, who was named C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week in December for her 19-point, 10-rebound performance against N.C. State.

On offense, the Pirates bucked out of the nip-and-tuck first half by opening the second half with a 9-0 run. But UAB fought back, pulling ahead by as many as six points with eight minutes remaining.

But Lady Blazers senior Diamond Rogers, the leading scorer in C-USA, then went down with an ankle injury, and the Pirates slowly regained the momentum and finally pulled back into the lead with 1:30 to play on a Terry fast break layup.

“It just shows that we were able to keep our composure,” Young said. “We could have not played clutch and fallen apart, but we didn’t.”

The next hurdle for East Carolina comes on Saturday against Memphis, and the Lady Pirates need to look no further for motivation than the lopsided score from the two team’s Jan. 12 meeting — 69-50. The team chemistry that helped propel ECU past the Blazers was scarce during the Memphis game, but the Lady Pirates have every reason to believe that part of their past is way behind them.

“Memphis embarrassed us, so we’ve got to show them that we’re a different team,” Young said.

As the last home game, the Memphis game is also Senior Day, when the team’s lone senior, Nicole Days, will be honored. With a 2 p.m. tip-off, Baldwin-Tener is hoping for a large, vocal crowd looking for a bandwagon to board.

If Thursday’s action is any indication, fans looking for physical, talented basketball with postseason implications will discover something valuable that day in Williams Arena — a reason to get excited about March.

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02/28/2008 12:52:24 AM

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