JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 29, 2009) - It's now 10 and counting for the ETSU women's basketball team.
The Lady Bucs exerted a lot of energy Thursday night, but when final buzzer sounded ETSU made it 10 straight conference wins, following their 65-54 victory over Jacksonville inside Swisher Gym.
Once again juniors TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) and Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) paced the Lady Bucs in scoring as they accounted for 40 of the 65 points. Wiles, the A-Sun's leading scorer, finished with a game-high 22 points, while Evans netted 12 of her 18 in the second half. The junior tandem also drained 19 of ETSU's 27 made field goals (Wiles with 11).
With the win, ETSU kept its two-game lead in the conference standings, as the Lady Bucs improved to 12-7, 10-1 in A-Sun. Jacksonville dropped to 11-9, 7-4.
"This was a hard fought victory and we used up a lot of energy out there tonight," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who saw her Lady Buccaneer team rally off their fifth straight win. "We knew Jacksonville was going to come out with a lot of intensity, because this game was a chance for them to cut into our conference lead. However, our team was prepared for the pressure and maintained its composure after Jacksonville came out with its big run to start the game."
In the first half, Jacksonville raced out to an early 7-2 lead, but a quick 9-0 Lady Buccaneer run quieted the storm and forced the Dolphins to call a 30-second timeout at the 15:23 mark as ETSU went ahead, 11-7. The Dolphins would knot the game at 11-all, but again, another ETSU surge over the next two minutes gave the Lady Bucs momentum as they led 18-11 after Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) nailed a three at the top of the key and Wiles drove in for two lay-ups.
Both teams went silent for the next two-plus minutes, but a deep 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down by Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) extended the Lady Buccaneer lead to eight, 23-15, with eight minutes to play in the half. Davis' three made sophomore Kami Phillips (Augusta, Ga.) want join the fun as she nailed one from nearly the same spot, and then, Phillips quickly found Evans open underneath the basket on the next possession for an easy lay-up, giving ETSU a 28-15 advantage with 6:53 on the clock.
Crystal Grable's lay-up at the 6-minute mark snapped a four minute and forty-second scoring drought and ended the Lady Bucs' 10-0 run, but a pair of free throws by Washington made it a 32-17 ballgame with 5:38 left in the half. However, over the final minutes, Jacksonville was able to chip its deficit down to single digits, as the Lady Bucs led 38-30 at the break.
ETSU shot 38.1 percent (16-42) in the first 20 minutes, compared to a 39.4 clip (13-33) by the host Dolphins. Both teams hit three free throws, but the Lady Bucs held an upper hand in 3-point shooting, with ETSU nailing three bombs to JU's one. ETSU won the rebounding battle in the first half - 25 to 20 - with seven points coming from eight offensive boards. Wiles led all scorers with 12, while Courtney Jackson paced JU with 11.
Neither team was able to gain any rhythm to open the first four minutes of the second half and ETSU led, 41-34, heading into the under 16 media timeout. From there, the Lady Bucs were able to get a little breathing room, when Davis stepped back and knocked down her second 3-pointer of the game at the 12:34 mark, putting ETSU up, 48-36.
With ETSU leading 48-40, the Lady Bucs rattled off 12 unanswered points from the 10:28 mark to 7:46 remaining in the game, and saw their lead balloon to 20, 60-40, after Evans converted a three-point-play. Both Evans and Wiles fueled the spurt as they combined to score 11 of the 12 points; however, Jacksonville was able to creep back into the contest thanks to the charity stripe. The Dolphins were able to cut the 20-point deficit in half (64-54) as they scored six of their final 14 points at the free throw line, but it was too little too late for the home team and the Lady Bucs walked off with the 11-point victory.
For the game the Lady Bucs shot 38.6 percent (27-70), while Jacksonville wasn't any better - finishing 36.2 percent (21-58). ETSU showed the Dolphins why they have the best perimeter defense in the A-Sun, as the Lady Bucs held JU to one 3-pointer (7.1 percent). Stifling defense by ETSU also caused the Dolphins fits, with the Lady Bucs forcing 23 turnovers, which resulted in a season-high 20 steals.
Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and (Gwen) Washington were a dominating duo on the glass, as they combined for 23 of ETSU's 46 rebounds. To go with Belcher's career-high 13 rebounds, the Martinsville, Va. native also scored five points and tallied a game-high five steals. Washington ended with eight points, 10 rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes of work. (Tara) Davis was also a bullet on the court as her speed was too much for JU to handle. Davis was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and finished with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Jacksonville was led by Desarae Johnson's 14 points, while Jackson netted 11 in the loss.
ETSU completes this brief two-game road swing on Saturday afternoon when the Lady Bucs take on UNF. Tip is set for 2 p.m. inside UNF Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.