JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 26, 2011) – Middle Tennessee State’s size, athleticism, and press defense was too much for the Lady Bucs to overcome on Saturday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
Kortni Jones had six of MTSU’s 13-pointers and the Lady Bucs turned the ball over 27 times as the Blue Raiders went on to defeat ETSU, 78-63, in non-conference action.
Jones finished with a game-high 19 points, while teammate and Preseason co-Player of the Year in the Sun Belt, Ebony Rowe, added 14 points and 14 rebounds in the win. The Lady Bucs were led by freshman Cara Bowling’s (Elizabethton, Tenn.) 12-point effort in 17 minutes off the bench.
With the loss, the Lady Bucs have now dropped their first five games to start the campaign, marking their worst start to a season since 2003-04 when that team also dropped five straight. Meanwhile, MTSU – who was picked to win the Sun Belt East Division and are currently ranked No. 12 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll – improved to 4-2.
Once again it was the high total of offensive rebounds allowed and costly turnovers which proved to plague ETSU. The Blue Raiders scored 24 second-chance points off 20 offensive rebounds, while also cashing in 26 points off the Lady Buccaneer miscues. Along with those two statistics, three-point shooting was also a factor as MTSU outscored the Blue and Gold by 21 points from beyond the arc – finishing 13-of-34 compared to 6-for-11 by the Lady Bucs.
The Lady Bucs hung around early in the first half as ETSU scored the first five points of the game and led 14-10 after (Cara) Bowling drove in for a lay-up at the 14:26 mark.
However, the Blue Raiders’ press defense started causing havoc on the Blue and Gold as MTSU regained a 16-14 lead less than two minutes later and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game. MTSU pushed their lead up to nine with less than four minutes remaining before the break, but the Lady Bucs received a spark from Iesha Robinson (Martinsburg, W. Va.) off the bench, as she nailed a three from the right wing and found Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.) open for a jumper to pull within four, 32-28, with 2:34 showing on the clock.
But MTSU had the last spurt before intermission as the Blue Raiders posted a 9-2 run in the closing minutes to carry an 11-point lead into the break, 41-30.
Sixteen of their 27 turnovers occurred in the first half for the Lady Bucs, resulting in 17 points for the Blue Raiders. Meanwhile, the plus-four advantage in three-point shooting by MTSU also played a factor, whereas, both teams tallied 11 second-chance points and 15 points from their bench in the first 20 minutes of play.
MTSU used another 9-2 run to begin the first four minutes, eighteen seconds of the second half to push its margin up to 18, 50-32.
From there, the Blue Raiders extended their lead to 21 – but the Lady Bucs fought back – cutting the deficit to 14 (64-50) after Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) found Bowling open for three with less than nine minutes to play. However, a three-pointer by Shanice Cason on MTSU’s next trip down the floor suck all the life out of the Dome, when her trey put the Blue Raiders back up 17. Cason’s three fueled a run where MTSU saw its lead grow to 24, but despite holding the Blue Raiders scoreless for the final 3:59, the Lady Bucs were only able to make it a 15-point final.
For the game, ETSU shot 35.7 percent from the field (20-56), while the Blue Raiders finished at 37.8 percent (28-74). Despite giving up 20 offensive rebounds, the Lady Bucs out-rebounded MTSU by two, 46 to 44, but MTSU held the edge in steals, 17 to 5. The Lady Bucs managed to shoot over 70 percent at the free throw line for the fourth time in five games on the year as ETSU netted 17 of its 23 attempts.
The Lady Bucs will now have a short turn around as the Blue and Gold travel to Richmond on Monday night for a 7 p.m. tip inside the Robins Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.