Lady Bucs get wake-up call in conference opener; fall to Mercer 77-61
Junior TaRonda Wiles led the Lady Bucs with 22 points on Friday night at Mercer.
Junior TaRonda Wiles led the Lady Bucs with 22 points on Friday night at Mercer.

Friday, December 05, 2008

MACON, Ga. (Dec. 5, 2008) - If the Lady Bucs were in need of an early season wake-up call, they sure got one on Friday night.

 

Mercer pulled off an Atlantic Sun shocker, as the Bears defeated the reigning Atlantic Sun champions in ETSU's conference opener, 77-61, inside University Center.

 

Despite seeing junior TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) pitch in a game-high 22 points, the Lady Buccaneers couldn't overcome a season-high 27 turnovers and 25 personal fouls.

 

ETSU, who was picked first in both preseason conference polls, dropped to 1-5. Meanwhile, Mercer was tabbed eighth in both polls, but the Bears are now off to its best start since the 1991-92 season - improving to 5-2 and 2-0 in conference play.

 

ETSU came out with some intensity in its first conference game, and took a quick 13-4 lead after Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) drained her fourth 3-pointer of the season at the 14:31 mark. However, the Lady Buccaneer spark was lost over the next six minutes when Mercer used a 19-9 run to take its first lead of the game, 23-22, after LaToya Jackson nailed her second trey of the game with 8:24 remaining in the half.

 

Jackson wasn't done hitting threes as her third bomb put the Bears up 28-24, but ETSU used the next four-plus minutes to go on a 9-3 spurt and regained the lead, 33-31. However, the Lady Bucs didn't score in the final 3:21, and Courtney Ford led Mercer into the break up, 37-33, as she scored the final six points of the half.

 

Both teams each hit 13 field goals in the first 20 minutes, but Mercer connected on two more threes and a pair of extra free throws. Neither team handled the ball well as they combined for 24 turnovers and both tallied a total of 20 fouls in the half. Jackson led all scorers with 13, while Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) led ETSU with nine.

 

Just like in the first half the Lady Bucs opened the final 20 minutes with a spark - scoring the first six points - and took a 39-37 lead when Evans nailed a pair of free throws.

 

Once again the flame was extinguished in a hurry.

 

With ETSU leading, 44-43 at the 13:38 mark, Mercer exploded with eight unanswered points to take command of the game. The Bears took advantage of being in the bonus eight minutes into the half as they connected on 13 of their 23 free throws in the last 12 minutes of the contest.

 

The Lady Bucs pulled to within three, 52-49, with less than 10 minutes left, but a 12-4 run gave Mercer a comfortable cushion when TaShera Lewis' lay-up made it an 11-point game, 64-53. ETSU never had an answer for the blitz and the Bears put the Lady Bucs away for the conference victory.

 

ETSU shot a season-high 41 percent (25-61), but only connected on 2 of its 16 three-point shots (12.5 percent). The Lady Buccaneers also won the rebounding battle - 36 to 32 - but Mercer went to the foul line 21 more times. Mercer finished 23-of-33, compared to 9-of-12 by the Lady Bucs.

 

The Bears had three players score in double figurers with Jackson netting a team-high 21 points.

 

ETSU now heads back to Johnson City to take its final exams before travelling up to Lexington on Friday, Dec. 12. The Lady Bucs will face the Wildcats of Kentucky at 7 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum.

 

For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.

 

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