JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2012) – The ETSU women’s basketball team looked to be in the driver’s seat as they held a 12-point lead with less than six minutes to play, but the Lady Bucs were outscored 18-3 down the stretch and North Florida rallied back to capture a 70-67 win on Thursday night inside UNF Arena.
Senior forward Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) fueled strong play by the ETSU bench as she led the Blue and Gold with 13 points, while freshman Cara Bowling (Elizabethton, Tenn.) added 12 on 5-of-8 shooting. Meanwhile, red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) tallied eight points (2-of-12 shooting), a career-high 11 rebounds, and four assists in 30 minutes off the bench. Overall, the ETSU bench scored 44 of the 67 points on Thursday night.
With the loss, the Lady Bucs are still in search for their first road of the year after dropping to 4-12, 3-3 in A-Sun play, while UNF improved to 6-11, 3-3.
“We hurt ourselves down the stretch,” said head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs had their eight-game winning streak in the month of January come to an end. “Once we got the 13 point lead, we went away from what got us there; which eventually let North Florida back into the game and end up getting the win.”
Getting away from what gave the Lady Bucs the momentum is exactly what happened, as ETSU stopped attacking and finding the open shooter – resulting in UNF outscoring the Blue and Gold 18-3 in the 5 minutes, 52 seconds to leave ETSU feeling stunned when the buzzer sounded.
ETSU had its chances to put the game away midway through the second half, but missed free throws proved to be too costly down the stretch. As a team, the Lady Bucs finished 12-of-19 at the charity stripe, including six misses in the final 20 minutes.
After the Lady Bucs held a five-point lead at the break, UNF stormed out the gates to start the second half as the Ospreys mounted a 7-1 run to regain a 33-32 lead, forcing the Lady Bucs to burn a timeout at the 17:38 mark.
The Ospreys came out of the timeout and extended their lead to four, 36-32, but ETSU quickly recovered and took control.
Over a six-plus minute stretch, the Lady Bucs went on a 23-6 run to take a 55-42 lead with 9:17 left to play, but ETSU couldn’t put the Ospreys away.
From there, both teams traded buckets, but despite holding a 13-point lead with 7 minutes, 16 seconds left, the Blue and Gold's offense shut down and went scoreless in the final 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
Washington’s three-point-play at the 2:22 mark put the Lady Bucs up 67-64, but those were the final points ETSU would get.
UNF’s Octavia Langston made it a one-point game after missing the chance to complete the and-one on the following possession. Sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) then took the ball for the Lady Bucs and drove the lane, but fouled out with 1:48 to play after being called for the charge. ETSU had another chance to add to its lead following the Mitchell turnover, but Gordon’s miss led to Jadken Kerr’s jumper – proving to be the difference maker with 29 seconds left.
Prior to Kerr’s jumper, UNF came out of a timeout with Brittany Kirkland missing on a three-point attempt, but the ball bounced off the hands of two Lady Buccaneer players, giving the Ospreys the extra possession. The possession haunted the Blue and Gold as Kerr nailed the jumper and ETSU had no answer.
The Lady Bucs came out of their final timeout with 20 seconds left, but as Washington drove hard into the lane no foul was called despite contact. UNF came away with the loose ball by a steal from Lakira Jones and the Lady Bucs were forced to foul. After UNF made both free throws to go up three, Gordon’s desperation three missed and the Ospreys came away with the win.
After shooting 42 percent in the first half, ETSU went 11-of-35 in the final 20 minutes to finish with a 36.8 shooting percentage (25-68). The Ospreys were the exact opposite as they hit 16 of their 31 shot attempts in the second half (37 percent in the first) and finished 44.8 percent from the field (26-58). UNF out-rebounded the Blue and Gold by five, 45 to 40, but the Lady Bucs got beat by their own game as UNF held a plus-10 margin in fast-break points, 12 to 2.
The first half was tightly contested as the first 10 minutes saw seven ties and four lead changes, but with the game knotted at 15, ETSU recorded a 12-2 run to take a 27-17 after Iesha Robinson (Martinsburg, W. Va.) laid one in, forcing the Ospreys to call a 30-second timeout with less than five minutes remaining before the half. The Lady Bucs then carried a 31-26 lead into the break.
UNF had four players finish in double figures with Kirkland leading the way with 15 points, four assists, and four rebounds.
The Lady Bucs return to action Saturday afternoon when ETSU faces Jacksonville. Tip is set for 1 p.m. inside Veterans Memorial Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.