NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Lady Pirates rise above
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(Photo: ECU SID)
Sharon Baldwin-Tener was far from negative when she talked about her team
during the preseason. She knew the East Carolina Lady Pirates had
considerable talent, and she believed she had players who could score from
any part of the floor.
Now, sitting at 14-2 and 3-0 in Conference USA, Baldwin-Tener is happy to
report that she underestimated this group.
“I think we probably have a deeper team than I thought originally,” said
Baldwin-Tener, in her eighth year at the helm. “We have a different leading
scorer almost every game. You can’t sit one player down and shut our team
The names that fans hear most often are experienced players and leading
scorers Allison Spivey, Ashley Clarke and Crystal Wilson, all averaging more
than 10 points per game. But what makes ECU’s offense so tricky to foil is
the effectiveness of its bench and the recent hot hands of young outside
shooters like Ariana Jackson and Kelly Smith.
In Sunday’s 73-62 victory over Central Florida, the momentum pivoted behind
the three-point arc in the second quarter after UCF cut the Pirates’ lead to
five. ECU responded with a 16-7 run that essentially sealed the win.
Jackson, Smith and Spivey all contributed three-pointers during that rally.
Smith, who is second on the team with 28 three-pointers, is a junior
transfer from West Virginia playing her first season as a Pirate. She
practiced with the team last season and served on the scout team while
waiting for NCAA regulations to put her back in the game.
Through those months of
watching her during practice, Baldwin-Tener knew that Smith was poised to
become an instant contributor.
“She’s a really good
shooter, but she can do much more than that,” Baldwin-Tener said. “She’s a
big guard that can get her hands on the ball and be active.”
Jackson, a freshman from
West Palm Beach, FL, learned so much from Baldwin-Tener and her staff in her
first months at ECU that it took her awhile to apply all of the new skills
to her game. Her coach let her ease into the more intense Division I
competition, gradually increasing her playing time throughout the
With every game, Jackson
gets more chances to prove that she has the confidence and ability to assert
her presence even more.
An intense player who
specializes in hustle plays, Jackson has pulled down several key rebounds
for the Pirates, including seven boards against UCF to make her the team’s
top rebounder that afternoon.
“She’s getting more
comfortable as the season goes on, and I think it helps us that we have some
leadership and some post players that returned from last year,” Baldwin-Tener
said. “She goes out there and she plays hard, and she makes things happen
because of how hard she plays.”
The team is shooting
nearly 36 percent from the three-point line and 47 percent from the floor.
But Baldwin-Tener points out that the Pirate defense, too, has been
exceeding expectations. From starter to role player, the Lady Pirates are
characterized by their tenacity when their opponents have the ball.
“They’re really starting
to buy into the fact that defense is winning the game,” she said.
Jackson has her own
testimonial of a defensive awakening, and it goes hand in hand with her
quick ascent into the college game. In high school, defense was simple and
underemphasized, but Baldwin-Tener took apart her old defensive habits and
rebuilt that part of her game, piece by piece. Now she enjoys it, especially
when ECU’s aggressiveness opens the door for more looks when they get the
“It’s not the most fun
thing to do in practice, but it’s paid off for everybody,” Jackson said of
the defensive sharpening. “We’ve learned techniques, and how to guard, and
it helps us to be better on offense.”
The next challenge for
the Lady Pirates is a pair of Texas road trips. They travel to the Lone Star
State this weekend to face Houston and Rice. Baldwin-Tener believes that
Houston may be the toughest team the Lady Pirates will have faced so far.
The following weekend
brings a trip to Dallas to play against Southern Methodist.
The next home game is
on Jan. 28 against UAB. The Lady Pirates have been drawing more fans to
Minges for every outing.
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01/13/2010 03:15 AM