JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 8, 2011) - The Lady Bucs had a golden opportunity to make a dent in the Atlantic Sun Conference race, but ETSU let that chance slip away Saturday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
After scoring 43 first-half points against the top defense in the league, the Blue and Gold were held to only 27 in the final 20 minutes, and Florida Gulf Coast snapped ETSU's 11-game home conference winning streak with the 77-70 victory. The Lady Bucs, who had three finish in double figures, were missing their leading scorer and rebounder - Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) - as she was back home attending her grandmother's funeral service.
Leading the charge for the Lady Bucs was junior guard Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) as she poured in 19 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) added 18 points, four assists and four steals, while Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) came off the bench to finish with 11.
With the loss, the Lady Bucs drop two games behind the Eagles in the conference standings as ETSU sits at 6-8, 3-2. Meanwhile, FGCU kept its perfect record intact as the Eagles moved to 12-0, 5-0.
"I think our biggest weakness today was we didn't attack them (FGCU) in the second half," commented head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs suffered their first home conference loss since Feb. 28, 2009. "We didn't look to attack their defense and kick it out in the second half, which is what we did well in the first. Early in the game we looked to attack and kick it out to Natalie, T.D., or whoever that open person was and they knocked down some outside shots. In the second half - for whatever reason - we went away from that, and we were not using our inside-outside threat like we should have.
"This one will be hard to get over, because I feel we should have won this one. But we can't dwell on that. We need to move on and turn our attention to the next opponent. Hopefully we have learned from this, so when we see them next month the end result will be different."
The Lady Bucs came out and stole a page from the Eagles' playbook to start the game as ETSU hit on three of its first five three-point attempts and grabbed an early 11-7 lead after Davis sank a jumper with 15:39 on the clock. The three ball continued to fall for the Blue and Gold as Pickwell drained her third consecutive attempt - pushing ETSU's advantage to nine, 23-14, with just over ten minutes remaining before the break.
However, just seconds later, FGCU hit a three and connected on a lay-up to trim its deficit to four, but the Lady Bucs continued to show strength down low as Davis grabbed an offensive rebound away from the Eagles and laid one in to make it 27-19 with 7:57 showing on the clock. FGCU continued to use the three to its advantage as the Eagles made a trio of threes over the next two minutes, fifty-one seconds - cutting the lead to one, 31-30, with 5:06 left before intermission. Again ETSU dug deep and fought hard as the Lady Bucs carried a 43-37 lead into the break.
For the half, the Lady Bucs shot 45.5 percent (15-33) from the field and knocked down six of their 13 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Eagles recorded a 39.4 shooting percentage (13-33) and hit seven of their 16 three-point shots. ETSU enjoyed a plus-10 advantage on the boards - out-rebounding the Eagles 25 to 15 - while outscoring FGCU 10-0 in second-chance points.
The second half was a different story for ETSU - and despite leading by as many as eight in the half - the Lady Bucs couldn't get over the hump late in the stanza.
ETSU began the final 20 minutes with a bucket from Pickwell and led 45-37, but the Lady Bucs couldn't push the intensity up another level to throw a larger punch at the visitors from Ft. Myers.
Instead, the Eagles slowly chipped away at their deficit and took the lead for the first time since the 19:32 mark of the first half when Courtney Chihil's lay-up put FGCU ahead 48-47 with 14:43 left in the contest.
From that point forward, the Lady Bucs were never able to regain the lead, and the Eagles pushed their advantage to seven with less than ten minutes left; however, ETSU continued to fight back. Over the next four-plus minutes, the Lady Bucs were able to get to within one, when Davis' three-pointer from the corner made it 61-60 with 5:21 left in the game.
Unfortunately, following a 30-second ETSU timeout, FGCU came down the floor and hit back-to-back threes - putting the Eagles up 67-60 at the 4:32 mark.
"When we cut it to one, we gave up two threes back-to-back and that really hurt us," said Kemp. "I felt once we got it to one, I told the players in the timeout that it was gut check time and this stretch will determine who wants it more. Unfortunately, for us, they set that double screen for the shooter coming off, we didn't communicate it and they knocked down the three immediately. Then the next time down the floor they did the same thing. Kudos to them for knocking down those shots, but it was a lack of communication on our part that led to their shooters getting open."
The Lady Bucs were able to pull within two on two different possessions down the stretch, but with FGCU ahead 69-67, Davis fouled the Eagles with the shot clock winding down. Then, on the next play, Washington was charged with her third foul - and after a pair of Sarah Hansen free throws - the Eagles were up four with 49 ticks left. The free throws marked the back-breaker as FGCU came away with the seven-point road victory.
After shooting 45.5 percent in the first half, the Lady were held to 27 percent in the second, and ETSU finished 22-of-59 for the game (37 percent). The exact opposite could be said for the Eagles as they shot 50 percent in final 20 minutes and finished at 44 percent for the game (25-57). Twelve of the Eagles' 25 field goals made came from beyond the arc, compared to only eight of ETSU's 22 makes coming from long range. Despite being out-rebounded by six in the second half, the Lady Bucs still won the battle on the boards - 39 to 35 - while 11 offensive rebounds resulted into 16 second-chance points for ETSU.
Four of FGCU's five starters scored in double figures as Shannon Murphy led the way with a game-high 20 points.
The Lady Bucs will look to regroup and get back into the win column Monday evening when ETSU hosts Stetson. Tip is slated for 4:45 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.