Despite shooting 15-of-16 from the free throw line in the game, the American University women's basketball team fell 70-65 to East Carolina in AU's home opener at Bender Arena. Junior Michelle Kirk led the Eagles with 19 points, 15 of which she scored in the second half.
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After East Carolina (4-0) jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead in the first four-plus minutes, American (2-2) fired back with six unanswered points to take an 8-6 advantage with 13:32 to play in the first half. The next several minutes would go back-and-forth with junior Liz Leer knocked down a jumper to tie the score at 17 at the 7:23 mark. The Pirates, however, proceeded to go on an 11-2 run to open up a 28-19 lead with 5:07 to play, and took a 32-25 lead into halftime.
The Eagles got off to a strong start in the second half on the shoulders of Kirk, who scored seven points in the first four minutes to help cut the deficit to two, 38-36. East Carolina kept a steady lead between four and six points for the next six-plus minutes until two Ebony Edwards free throws cut the ECU advantage back to two, 46-44, with 10:56 to play.
With a high number of personal fouls committed early in the second half, both teams were in the bonus midway through the second half. AU proceeded to knock down four consecutive free throws, two each by Nicole Ryan and Kirk, to knot the score at 48. After a made free throw by East Carolina's Ashley Clarke, Kirk converted two more from the foul line to give the Eagles a 50-49 lead, their first advantage since leading 8-6 in the first half.
The two squads would exchange blows over the next few minutes before two Ohemaa Nyanin free throws knotted the score at 54 with under seven minutes to play. The Pirates, however, responded with the next five points to take a 59-54 lead before an Edwards rebound, put-back, followed by a Leer backdoor layup, cut the East Carolina advantage to one, 59-58, with four minutes to play.
The game would continue to remain tight down the stretch, as consecutive jumpers by AU's Leer and a runner in the lane by Raven Harris, would knot the score at 65 with one minute left in the ballgame. The final minute, however, belonged to the Pirates. A Kelly Smith floater from close range gave East Carolina a 67-65 lead with 35 seconds to play, and then a steal and coast-to-coast layup by ECU's Crystal Wilson with 14 seconds left put the game out of reach for AU. The Pirates would tack on a late free throw in the final five seconds to come away with a 70-65 road victory over American.
In the game, American shot 93.8 percent (15-16) from the free-throw line, the sixth-best single-game team free throw percentage in program history. Kirk led the Eagles with a perfect six-of-six mark from the charity stripe.
The other final statistics were similar across the board for both squads. East Carolina held a slight 49 percent to 46 percent advantage in field goal percentage, and committed two fewer turnovers (18) to American's 20. Both teams struggled from three-point range, as AU was 2-11, while East Carolina shot 2-10 from deep.
For the third game this season, Kirk led the Eagles in scoring with 19 points. She also chipped in six rebounds. Leer and Ryan recorded double-digit scoring outputs for the Eagles with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Leer was seven-of-nine from the floor. The senior Nyanin also recorded career-highs with eight points and nine rebounds for AU.
East Carolina was led by Kim Gay, who recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She finished with identical six-of-seven clips from both the field and the free throw line. Ashley Clarke and Chareya Smith also scored in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Eagles will return to action on Tuesday, November 24 when they host the New Jersey Institute of Technology at Bender Arena. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Fans unable to make it to the game can watch all of the action live on the new Eagles Vision TV, part of AUeagles.com. All men's and women's non-conference home games will be available on Eagles Vision TV, which features multiple camera angles, a live scoreboard and analysis from a studio broadcast team and courtside reporters. A year-long Eagles All-Access pass, available for only $49.95, gives you access to all Eagles Vision TV games, plus the archives of all broadcasts from this season anytime you want. Single-game subscriptions are also available for only $5.95 per contest. To signup for Eagles Vision TV, click here.