March 6, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS -
Brittany Gilliam scored a game-high 28 points and Christine Elliott posted 16 rebounds as top-seeded SMU defeated No. 8 seed East Carolina, 77-69, in the first quarterfinal contest of the 2009 Conference USA Women's Championship Friday afternoon at Fogelman Arena.
SMU 77, ECU 69
The Mustangs led throughout the first half but the Lady Pirates used a 17-9 rally over the first eight minutes of the second stanza to tie the game at 43-all with 12:49 left on the clock. The game swung back and forth over the next nine-plus minutes but with the two teams deadlocked at 62-62, SMU outscored East Carolina 15-7 the rest of the way to account for the final score.
With the win, SMU improves to 20-10 on the year and advances to the C-USA Semifinals where the Mustangs will take on the winner of Friday's Houston (19-9)/UCF (14-16) contest on Saturday at 2 p.m. East Carolina, meanwhile, concludes its 2008-09 campaign at 18-13.
Gilliam scored the first five points of the game for SMU as the Mustangs quickly got ahead by 10 at 14-4 with 14:38 left to play in the opening period. The lead swelled to as many as 13 with 2:58 left in the first half and SMU went into the locker room at the break on top, 34-26.
East Carolina's defense clamped down on the SMU attack in the second half and the offense responded. The Lady Pirates posted 12 blocks on the day, nine of which came in the final 20 minutes. ECU's come-back effort tied the score twice midway through the final period and East Carolina took their first lead of the day at 51-49 on a LaCoya Terry layup with 10:17 left to play.
The Lady Pirates led over the next six-plus minutes, but an Elliott layup tied the score at 62-all with 3:35 remaining in regulation and a pair of free throws by Haley Day with 2:55 left to go gave SMU the lead for good. From there, the Mustang defense held East Carolina to a 3-for-10 showing from the field the rest of the way to advance to Saturday's semis, which will be televised live on ESPN2.
Gilliam, who was 6-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc on the day, was one of three SMU players to post double-digit scoring totals as Elliott added 13 points to her rebound total for a double-double and LaShandra Hill chipped in with 12. Gilliam, Hill and Delisha Wills each had three assists to aid the SMU cause, and Gilliam led all players with four steals.
Jasmine Young, Terry and Tiahana Bowens led East Carolina in scoring with 15, 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Young, Bowens and Jean Best tied for team-high rebounding honors with six each.