Celeste Stewart poured in a career-high 21 points to help lift East Carolina over conference foe Rice by a score of 60-41 at Minges Coliseum on Thursday night to open league action.
The Pirate defense was stout as it limited the Owls to 33.3-percent shooting and collected 20 steals to tie for fifth in the ECU single-game record book.
With the win, the Pirates improve to 11-3 overall and start conference play with a 1-0 ledger.
The Owls fall to 8-6 on the year and 0-1 in C-USA action.
ECU was led offensively by Stewart’s 21 points as well as Whitny Edwards’ 10 points.
Additionally Stewart tallied a team-high five assists, three steals, and a rebound while shooting 57.1-percent in the game.
Whitny Edwards added six boards, two assists, a pair of steals and a block, while her twin sister Britny Edwards led the squad with 11 rebounds.
Britny Edwards contributed seven points, four steals and three assists in the contest.
The Pirates started the game with an offensive surge as they jumped out to a 10-0 advantage in the first three-and-a-half minutes.
Rice tried to play catch-up, but the ECU defense was solid and kept the Owls at a distance.
East Carolina led throughout the entire game and never looked back.
In the first half, the Pirates led by as many as 16 points (32-16) and Stewart tallied 15 of her 21 points in the frame.
East Carolina held a comfortable 15-point advantage (36-21) going into halftime.
As a team, ECU shot nearly 44-percent from the floor, 50-percent from the three-point line and was a perfect 2-for-2 from the charity stripe in the first half.
The Pirate defense held the Owls to just 29.2-percent shooting and did not allow them to connect on a three-pointer in the half.
After the break, East Carolina picked up where it left off as the Pirates opened the second half with three consecutive buckets off of a trio of steals to go up 42-21.
The Pirates pushed their lead to 25 (52-27) at the 8:58 mark after Stewart hit a jumper.
In the last five minutes of the contest, Rice was able to cut ECU’s lead to 19 (58-39) and East Carolina took the game by a final of 60-41.
Kyani White and Ariana Jackson each added five points in the game.
White tallied two steals and an assist, while Jackson finished the contest with three boards and a steal.
Rice was led by Maya Adetula who notched 10 points and was the Owls’ only double-figure scorer.
Jessica Kuster led the squad with eight rebounds and added six points, two steals and an assist.
The Pirates hit the road for their next game as they head to El Paso, Texas to take on conference rival UTEP on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 4 p.m. at the Don Haskins Arena.