RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University junior forward Courtney Hurt scored a career-high 34 points, one shy of tying the school's single-game record, but it wasn't enough to defeat a high-powered East Carolina squad as the Rams fell 77-72 Thursday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
Coming off a 10-day break, VCU lost its second straight to fall to 2-2 while East Carolina won back-to-back games for the first time this season and improved to 4-3.
"We are disappointed with the outcome," said VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham. "We knew coming in that East Carolina was a very experienced, up-tempo team. We were concerned about their style of play and I thought at times we did a really good job controlling the game and playing the way we want to play. But we had too many lapses allowing them to get easy baskets. But give them credit. They came out and made plays. A lot of it comes down to the little things we have to fix."
Hurt has registered a double-double in all four of VCU's games this season. She added 10 rebounds and hit 12 of 18 from the field on her way to a career-best 34 points. Freshman Jacqueline Brewer scored 10 points off the bench, while junior Chelsea Snyder (pictured, left) contributed a career-high nine points and four rebounds. Senior Jessica Taylor finished with seven points and a game-high five assists.
Neither team led by more than five points during the first 20 minutes as the opening stanza featured seven ties and seven lead changes. VCU took its largest lead of the half at 18-13 on a layup by sophomore Sonia Johnson at the 13:37 mark.
A 3-pointer by Hurt with 6:16 to go before the break gave the Rams their final lead of the period at 29-28. Ariana Jackson put the Pirates back in front on the following possession and East Carolina led by as many as five points on three occasions the rest of the way and took a 41-36 lead into the locker room.
The score remained close through the first four minutes of the second half as a pair of free throws by Johnson with 15:58 to go tied the game at 45-45. East Carolina then reeled off eight of the next nine points and took a 53-46 advantage less than 1:30 later.
VCU again responded and Brewer capped off an 8-0 run with a traditional 3-point play and gave the Rams their first lead since the 6:16 mark in the opening period. The Black & Gold would eventually pull ahead 61-57 on a jumper by Hurt with 7:49 remaining but East Carolina stormed back with a 16-3 spurt spanning five minutes and to go up 73-64.
The Rams chipped away and a 3-pointer by Hurt got VCU within 75-72 with 11 seconds to go but it was as close as it would get.
Jackson paced East Carolina with 21 points. Ashley Clarke added 12, Kim Gay contributed 11 and Allison Spivey chipped in 10 for the Pirates.
City bragging rights will be on the line as VCU travels to cross-town rival Richmond on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tip at the Robins Center. The Rams then continue their three-game road swing with contests at Coppin State on Dec. 8 and Charlotte on Dec. 11.