Pirates get heavy dose of No.2-ranked Huskies

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS SHUT DOWN: ECU senior Jada Payne finished with a team-high seven points in a losing effort.

SHUT DOWN: ECU senior Jada Payne finished with a team-high seven points in a losing effort.

GREENVILLE — Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma’s 890th career win came in the form of a blowout 89-38 victory over East Carolina in Minges Coliseum Wednesday afternoon in the first meeting between the two programs.

Despite a strong start showing in out-of-conference play (9-2), the Pirates’ start to their inaugural American Athletic Conference campaign has been turbulent, dropping their AAC opener on Sunday at South Florida, 69-62, followed by a unimpressive performance against the Huskies.

“UConn is obviously an incredible basketball team and give them all the credit tonight for being one of the top teams in the country,” said ECU head coach Heather Macy.

UConn entered winners of nine-straight, coming off a destructive 83-52 victory over No. 10-ranked Duke on Monday. The reigning national champions have leaned on a balanced offensive approach led by guard Moriah Jefferson and forward Breanna Stewart, who finished with a game-high 26 points and six rebounds.

“The way they were playing, how much pressure they wanted to put on the perimeter, I think the last thing you want to against teams that pressure is come down and jack up three pointers and get the game going the other way again,” said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, a nine-time national champion with the Huskies. “A big part of our offense today was let them extend their defense, get inside of it, get the ball in lane and try to get to the free throw line as much as possible and try to control the tempo like we did in the second half.”

Due to a handful of inerrant turnovers and traveling violations early in the first half, the Pirates were never able to capture a lead against the No. 2-ranked team in the nation. ECU’s three-guard set struggled to match up against a lengthy UConn team down low and the second-chance opportunities that powered the Pirates through their first nine wins were virtually absent.

“Typically when we play, our second shot is our best shot and we really weren’t able to get to the offensive board like we typically do,” Macy said.

“It’s our first time being tested like that, so I think with our players there’s an adjustment period for sure.”

Senior guard Jada Payne, who entered as ECU’s leading scoring, averaging nearly 19 points per game, was held to just seven points and five rebounds, while four players — Jasmine Phillips, DeVaughn Gray, Abria Trice and I’Tiana Taylor — finished with six points each.

For UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, Wednesday’s visit to Greenville was his first since Virginia visited in the early ‘80s.

“I remember back then, they were great crowds and people were passionate about the school. The fan base was great,” Auriemma said.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise for me. I think they have a chance to be really good here.”

With the win, UConn picks up its first victory in AAC play and improves to 11-1 overall.

ECU will seek its first conference win next Wednesday on the road at Memphis.