EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Nov. 15, 2008) - Freshman Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) scored a game-high 21 points and junior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) notched her 16th career double-double, but it was still not enough to overcome Evansville, as the Purple Aces downed the Lady Bucs in their season-opener, 83-73, Saturday evening inside Roberts Stadium.
Evans finished the evening with 16 points (14 in the second half) and a game-high 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) chipped in with a career-high 13 points. Evansville (1-0) had three players score in double figures, with Ashley Austin and Robyn Jennings each posting career-high 20-point efforts in the win.
Both teams had season-opening jitters to start the contest, but Evansville connected on four of its first six shot opportunities, compared to ETSU's 2-of-8 shooting, and the Purple Aces led, 11-5, heading into the first media timeout at the 15:46 mark. From there, foul trouble haunted the Lady Bucs as juniors Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) each picked up two quick fouls in the opening six minutes of the half.
With ETSU (0-1) having to go to its bench, Evansville used that for a spark, grabbing a 25-15 lead with less than 10 minutes left before the break. The Lady Buccaneers slowly chipped the 10-point deficit away over the next three and a half minutes to narrow the Evansville lead to one, 29-28, with 6:26 remaining in the first. The run was fueled by Washington as she accounted for seven of the 13 Lady Buccaneer points during the stretch. Unfortunately, Washington and company cooled off, and the Purple Aces carried a 43-34 advantage into the locker room - using 14-6 run to close out the half.
In the first half, Evansville shot 57.7 percent from the floor (15-of-26), compared to ETSU's 31 percent clip (13-for-42). Both teams hit four three-pointers apiece, but the Purple Aces held the upper hand in free throw shooting. Evansville hit five more freebies than the Lady Bucs, 9-to-4. After not getting a shot off in its exhibition win over Cumberlands, (Gwen) Washington sure made up for the lost cause, going 7-for-17 in the opening 20 minutes to lead all scores with 17 points. Austin led the Purple Aces with 10.
The Lady Bucs opened the second half scoring four unanswered points, but with ETSU trailing 43-38, Evansville pushed its lead back to 10, 48-38, when Novosel laid one in at the 15:53 mark. Evansville's lead hovered around the 10 point margin until Jennings' third and final three with five and a half to play gave the Purple Aces their largest lead of the night, 76-56.
However, the Lady Buccaneers did not fold after the blistering run, as ETSU would get to within eight, but the Lady Buccaneer spurt proved to take all the wind out of their sails. Despite not knocking down a field goal since the Jennings three, the Purple Aces made seven clutch free throws down the stretch which, in the end, solidified the game.
The difference maker in the second half was free throw shooting. Evansville went 20-for-26, compared to ETSU's 5-of-9 at the charity stripe. For the contest, the Purple Aces went to the line 24 more times than the Lady Bucs - 29-for-40 to 9-of-16.
Evansville's hot three-point shooting was also a deciding factor, as the Purple Aces hit 47.1 percent (8-for-17) from beyond the arc. Both teams grabbed 45 rebounds (ETSU with 21 offensive), and the Lady Bucs' positive note was their 23 turnovers forced on the night.
The Purple Aces shot 47.9 percent for the game, where as, ETSU was held to 34.5 percent (29-84).
ETSU looks to pick up their first win of the season when they travel to Chattanooga on Monday night. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside McKenzie Arena.