JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2011) - Senior point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sent the game into overtime by sinking a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining in regulation and sophomore post Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) iced things up with two freebies of her own in the closing seconds of the extra frame, and the ETSU women's basketball team snuck by Stetson, 78-74, Monday evening inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
Davis, who had a rough night shooting from the field, made up for it at the free throw line as she scored 15 of her career-high-tying 27 points at the charity stripe, while also dishing out five assists and forcing three steals in 42 minutes of action. Meanwhile, freshman guard/forward Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) returned to the lineup after a one game hiatus and registered her fourth straight double-double effort. Mitchell, who played all 45 minutes, finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
With the win, the Lady Bucs escaped dropping back-to-back home conference games for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and ETSU improved to 7-8, 4-2. The Hatters dropped to 6-9, 2-4.
"The one thing we preach every day is even when you are off on the offensive end; you cannot be off on the defensive side," said head ETSU women's basketball coach Karen Kemp, who improved to 11-0 lifetime against Stetson in conference battles. "I felt like we had a couple of good stops when we needed them, but we also had some breakdowns; however, we were good enough to get the win tonight. Every loss is a difficult one to take, but suffering two straight home losses would have been tough. Like I always say, you need to take care of business at home, and I felt like we let one slip away the other day. We really needed this one, so we can head down to Jacksonville with a little bit of confidence."
After letting one slip away from them Saturday against FGCU, the Lady Bucs were in danger of having the same thing happen again versus Stetson; however, ETSU quickly learned from its mistakes and found a way to capture the important conference victory.
Trailing by seven with less than nine minutes remaining in the second half, the Blue and Gold rattled off the next nine points to regain a 59-57 lead with 6:41 left in regulation. From there, both teams traded buckets down the stretch until Stetson grabbed a 69-65 advantage following a pair of Tierra Brown free throws with 40 seconds showing on the clock. Fortunately, the Lady Bucs never crumbled as Davis made it a two-point game after laying the ball in five seconds later - and after ETSU decided not to foul with a five second differential on the shot clock - the move paid off. Stetson's Sasha Sims missed a three-pointer with less than ten seconds left, and when Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) pulled down the rebound, she quickly delivered the ball to Davis. That's when Davis was fouled by Brown on a blocking call, and the Murfreesboro, Tenn. native had ice water in her veins as she easily knocked down both attempts to force the five minute overtime.
"You couldn't have drawn it up any better to have T.D. at the free throw line in that situation," added Kemp. "If you wanted somebody to step up and knock down those shots, she was the one we wanted on the line. I had no doubt she was going to put those free throws in. She missed a couple early on, but at that point I felt really, really confident in her stepping up and putting those in for us."
In overtime, ETSU scored the first seven points in the extra stanza, but the Hatters fought back. With the Lady Bucs leading 76-69, Stetson pulled to within two, but Austin scored the final points of the game by netting two free throws with eight seconds left - giving her Lady Bucs the four-point win.
For the game, the Lady Bucs shot 37 percent (24-65) from the field, but ETSU outscored the Hatters by 19 at the free throw line - 29 to 10. The Hatters - who shot 59 percent in the second half - finished at 47 percent for the game (30-64), but 20 turnovers proved to be too costly for the visitors from Florida. ETSU scored 23 points off the miscues and the Lady Bucs also out-rebounded Stetson, 48-33. The Blue and Gold scored 18 points off 20 offensive rebounds, while six of Austin's season-high 11 boards came on the offensive end.
"One thing we have taken pride in the last couple of games is rebounding," commented Kemp. "We knew this was one area that was going to be key for us tonight. We wanted to keep them from getting second and third looks - and when we missed - we needed to go after the ball on the offensive end. Destiny was a warrior out there and got some clutch rebounds, while Latisha Belcher and Tosha both came up big for us tonight as well."
Despite playing like the weather outside in the first half - cold and sloppy - the Lady Bucs still managed to head into the break tied at 27. The Lady Bucs, who shot 31 percent in the first 20 minutes, were led by Mitchell's nine points; while Stetson shot 39 percent and were led by Brown's nine points as well.
With shots not falling early for both teams, the Lady Bucs were still able to take an early 7-5 advantage when Pickwell found Mitchell open for an easy lay-up with 13:28 remaining on the clock. Unfortunately, from there, Stetson posted a 10-0 run to grab a 15-7 lead; forcing coach Kemp to call a 30-second timeout after Simone Taylor hit Victoria McGowan for a fast-break lay-in at the 10:31 mark.
The Lady Bucs slowly chipped away at their deficit and pulled to within one, 21-20, when Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) laid one in with just over five minutes left before the half. From there, ETSU looked to have gained momentum by going on a 7-1 run to take a 27-22 lead, but the Hatters closed out the final two minutes, thirty-two seconds on a 5-0 run to even things up as both teams trotted into the locker room.
The Hatters had three players score in double figures as McGowan led the way with 22 points and eight assists.
The Lady Bucs return to action on Saturday afternoon when ETSU travels to Jacksonville for a clash with the Dolphins. Tip is set for 1 p.m. inside Veterans Memorial Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.