JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 7, 2012) – After a bumpy start to the season, the ETSU women’s basketball team seems to be turning the page following a convincing 72-46 win over Mercer on Saturday afternoon inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
In a game that saw ten different players reach the scoring column, the Lady Buccaneer defense forced Mercer into 24 turnovers and out-rebounded the Bears, 59 to 37.
Red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) came off the bench to pace the Blue and Gold with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while fellow senior guard Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) collected her first career double-double. The Kingsport, Tenn. native finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. A pair of underclassmen also fueled the run as freshman Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.) and sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) played a big role into today’s lop-sided win. Bond, who hails from Macon and was being recruited by Mercer, added 10 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes, and Mitchell tallied 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 22 minutes of action.
With the win, ETSU improved its record to 3-11, 2-2 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, while Mercer has now dropped six straight games and moved to 3-13, 1-4 A-Sun.
“I thought we played like a Lady Buccaneer basketball team today,” said head coach Karen Kemp, who has now won six straight games against Mercer. “We played like we are on a mission and that is to become Atlantic Sun champs. I was really proud with the effort from everyone who stepped out on the court. We had a lot more energy, passion, and heart.”
The energy and passion was flowing early and often for the Blue and Gold as their suffocating full-court press defense caused havoc on the Bears.
ETSU forced the Bears to burn a pair of 30-second timeouts in the opening eight minutes and Mitchell put the Lady Bucs up 20-6 following her lay-up at the 9:43 mark.
Mercer never knew what hit them in the opening stanza of the game and the Lady Bucs continued to pile it on for the remainder of the half. Ten of the 11 ETSU players who logged minutes in the first half reached the scoring column and the Lady Bucs eventually saw their lead grow to as many as 26 (39-13) – courtesy of Gordon’s lay-in with 1:21 showing on the clock.
For the half, ETSU’s stellar defense forced Mercer into 13 turnovers and cashed those miscues into 17 points. The Lady Bucs also dominated in the paint, outscoring the visitors from Macon, 18 to 4, and the ETSU bench recorded 21 of the 39 team points.
Things continued to get better for the Blue and Gold in the second half as a pair of Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) free throws at the 15:41 juncture gave ETSU its largest lead of the season, 53-19.
The Bears were only able to get to within 23 on two different possessions, but the Lady Bucs cruised to the 26-point conference victory.
The Lady Bucs shot 43 percent for the game (25-58) and forced Mercer to a 25 percent shooting clip (18-72). In the end, ETSU held a plus-20 margin in points in the paint (34-14), while the bench added 29 points.
Meanwhile, junior post Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds, while also swatting four shots.
Mercer only had one player score in double figures as freshman guard Precious Bridges scored 10 points, while reigning A-Sun Freshman of the Year, Briana Williams, was held to seven points (2-of-13 shooting) and five turnovers in 23 minutes.
“I was really pleased with our defense today, including Destiny’s effort on their leading scorer Briana Williams,” added Kemp, whose team put forth their best defensive performance of the season by conceding a season-low 46 points. “Tarita also hounded the ball defensively and did a tremendous job today.”
The Lady Bucs close out their season-long five-game homestand when ETSU hosts Kennesaw State on Monday afternoon. Tip is set for 3:30 p.m. inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.