JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 1, 2010) - The Lady Bucs started the second half on a 21-2 run and they never looked back, as the ETSU women's basketball team notched its record-setting ninth straight win with an 87-65 victory over Belmont on Monday night inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
One game after having five players score in double figures, ETSU managed to one-up itself, as the Lady Bucs recorded six in double digits against the Bruins. Junior newcomer Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) paced ETSU, scoring a game-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Meanwhile, senior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) recorded her 12th double-double of the season (45th career), as the Preseason Player of the Year selection tallied 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists in 28 minutes of work. Like she did on Saturday, junior Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) came off the bench to spark the Lady Bucs - finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals in only 18 minutes of action.
The win lifts ETSU to 13-7, 11-1 in A-Sun play - setting up the all-important rematch with league-leading Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday evening in Fort Myers. The Eagles, who are in progress at Mercer, currently stand 16-4, 11-1. With the loss, Belmont dropped to 11-10, 6-7, and it also marked the sixth straight to the Blue and Gold.
"The slow start was frustrating and it has been frustrating the last couple of games," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who saw her Lady Bucs improve to 7-0 at home this season. "We have come out a little slow, but I think I am little different than some coaches because some will call a quick timeout. I have the confidence in this team that they will get things going and eventually get into rhythm - which they have shown the last couple of games. But down there (at FGCU) it is completely different. We have to put together 40 minutes of solid basketball. It's nice to have a win streak, but that is all behind us and our focus is on Gulf Coast coming up.
Both teams got off to cold starts, but ETSU capitalized on Belmont's 0-for-6 start to grab an early 6-0 lead after Gordon laid one in with 16:33 showing on the clock. However, the Bruins kicked things into gear, and Amber Rockwell stepped in off the bench to give the Bruins a huge spark. Belmont scored 14 unanswered points from the 16:10 mark to 13:32 remaining in the half, and grabbed a 14-6 lead as Rockwell nailed two deep bombs during that stretch.
From there, ETSU would get to within four, 14-10, but again Belmont was feeling it from outside. The Bruins rattled off seven more unanswered points and extended their lead to the largest of the half, 21-10, when Rockwell laid one in at the 10:43 mark.
Fortunately, ETSU stepped up its game and outscored Belmont 30-10 to end the final 10 minutes, 22 seconds of the first half. Once again Davis came off the bench to ignite the Lady Buccaneer offense, as she accounted for nearly half of ETSU's points during the blitzkrieg. Davis scored nine first-half points, assisted on three two-point jumpers and forced three steals in the 7 minutes, 39 seconds she saw on the floor.
"As a coach it has been really difficult, because Tarita Gordon has been playing really well and the same goes for T.D. (Tara Davis)," commented Kemp. "It's hard to decide who to start, but it seems like over the last several ballgames that Tara has been our spark off the bench on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor."
The Lady Bucs benefited from some hot shooting in the opening 20 minutes, with ETSU going 16-of-30 (53.3 percent), compared to Belmont posting a frigid 27.8 shooting percentage (10-36). The 3-point shot kept the Bruins within reach, as Belmont was 6-of-18, while the Lady Bucs went 4-for-11. Belmont also used 12 offensive rebounds to its advantage - scoring 14 second-chance points -while the Bruins held a plus-four margin in rebound (22-18).
Then, the start of the second half was all ETSU, as the Blue and Gold mounted a 21-2 to run in the opening 6 minutes, 24 seconds and the Lady Bucs led, 61-33, when Davis found Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) open for an easy lay-up.
ETSU's fun continued and the Lady Bucs eventually grabbed a 34-point lead, 77-43, when Ashley Benedict (Rome, Ohio) scored two of her career-high 14 points at the 7:17 mark.
Again for the third straight game, the Lady Bucs were able to clear the bench and cruise to a 22-point conference victory. In total, nine players recorded at least 10 minutes, while all 12 players saw action. The bench produced 39 points, while local product Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport) accounted for a career-high 11 points. Pickwell also finished with three rebounds and two steals.
"The bench really has been working extremely hard the last few weeks in practice - and not to say they haven't all year - but I have seen them grow and mature during this stretch," Kemp said. "Fortunately, for us, they are coming in and giving us good minutes when they are called upon."
For the game ETSU shot over 50-percent for the third time this season - going 34-of-63 (54.0 percent). Meanwhile, Belmont shot 31.4 percent for the game (22-40), but the Bruins did hit 11 3-pointers (27 attempts). After being out-rebounded by four in the first half, ETSU finished the game with a plus-one margin - 40 to 39. The Lady Bucs also did a tremendous job distributing the rock, as ETSU recorded 23 assists, while forcing a season-high 17 steals.
Belmont was led by Rockwell's 16 points off the bench, while Cacy Burtnett added 12.
ETSU ended its home stand with a perfect 3-0 mark, and should Lipscomb or Kennesaw State fall tonight, the Lady Bucs would be the first team to clinch a berth to the 2010 Atlantic Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga.
The Lady Bucs begin their two-game Florida swing on Thursday night when ETSU faces Florida Gulf Coast. Tip is set for 5:15 inside Alico Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.