JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 12, 2011) - Saturday's win over North Florida was bittersweet for the Lady Bucs.
Junior guard Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) scored a career-high 24 points and senior post Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) registered her ninth career double-double (14pts/11rebs), and the ETSU women's basketball team blasted North Florida, 74-52, inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
Along with Pickwell and Belcher, senior point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) enjoyed a solid afternoon. Davis recorded 12 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in 29 minutes for work. Junior Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) came off the bench to post 10 points (6-of-6 at free throw line) and eight rebounds.
The Lady Bucs - who improved to 15-10, 12-4 in A-Sun play - lost freshman standout Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) early on in the first half with an apparent knee injury and she didn't return. There was no indication how severe the injury was following the game in the postgame press conference. Meanwhile, the Ospreys are now 0-6 lifetime in Johnson City and dropped to 11-13, 9-6.
"We were really anxious to get to this game, because they defeated us at their place last month," commented head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs have won seven straight home games. "The way they celebrated down there stuck in the back of my mind, so I made sure it stuck in the back of the players' minds as well. I thought we took care of business and protected our home floor, which is something we should do each time we step out there.
"We don't know a thing about Destiny right now. As soon as I leave here, we are going to speak to the doctor to see how severe the injury is and hopefully it's not going to be season-ending. Hopefully she will be able to bounce back, but I felt really good how Shawn (Randall) stepped in for us. She came in, gave us a lot of energy and did a good job stepping up during a difficult time. As for Natalie, she has been taking it upon herself to come in and get extra shots up. It paid off today, because she had a lot of confidence out there and gave us the spark we needed to win."
The opening minutes of the game were scary for the Lady Buccaneer faithful as Mitchell went down untouched right in front of North Florida's bench with only a minute, fifty-seven seconds coming off the clock.
Fortunately, Pickwell stepped up and provided a huge scoring night as she hit three of her first four three-point attempts - giving the Blue and Gold an early 9-7 lead at the 16:44 mark. The Ospreys would take a one-point advantage after Juliemay Syquio nailed a three of her own, but six unanswered points by the Lady Bucs put ETSU ahead for the rest of the game - forcing UNF to burn a timeout after Davis found freshman Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) for a fast-break lay-up with 14:40 showing on the clock.
From there, the Ospreys pulled to within one, but a 14-2 Lady Buccaneer run put ETSU up 29-16 after Ashley Miles (Bowie, Md.) netted a pair of free throws with six minutes remaining before the break. UNF was able to close the gap to ten on two separate possessions, but ETSU carried a 16-point lead into the locker room, 40-24.
The Lady Bucs shot 44 percent in the opening 20 minutes and outscored the Ospreys 20 to 10 in the paint. Meanwhile, UNF shot a frigid 26.5 percent (9-34) and were only 3-of-11 from beyond the arc. ETSU also forced the Ospreys into ten first-half turnovers - resulting in ten points for the Lady Bucs.
ETSU wasted little time putting the game out of reach in the second half as the Lady Bucs saw their lead balloon to 20 in the opening three minutes, twenty-six seconds, forcing the Ospreys to burn another timeout. The Lady Bucs quickly pushed their lead to 24 less than a minute later - and right before the ten minute mark - ETSU led 66-37 thanks to Iesha Robinson (Martinsburg, W. Va.) finding Davis open for her only three-pointer of the contest.
Eventually, the Blue and Gold led by as many as 32 and ETSU easily walked away with the 22-point win.
For the game, ETSU shot 43 percent (26-61) and the Lady Bucs held the Ospreys to 19-of-68 shooting (28 percent). After being out-rebounded by five in the first half, the Lady Bucs won the rebounding battle by nine in the second half to finish plus-four for the game, 49 to 45. The Lady Bucs forced their opponent into double figure turnovers for the 295th consecutive game - forcing the Ospreys to cough the ball up 17 times - resulting into 17 points for ETSU.
North Florida was led by Brittany Kirkland's 11 points.
The Lady Bucs gear up for their final home game of the season when ETSU hosts Jacksonville Monday night. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.