By Joe Avento
Press Sports Writer
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 24, 2012) – For 45 minutes, the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team stood toe to toe with LSU. It just wasn’t enough.
The Lady Tigers tied the game with a dramatic basket at the regulation buzzer and went on to win in overtime Tuesday night, 71-68, leaving ETSU left to wonder what could have been.
"Oh gosh, I am so proud of this team,” ETSU coach Karen Kemp said. “They came out and they performed for 45 minutes. Other than ETSU fans, no one else thought we would take them to overtime.”
The Lady Bucs (5-15) appeared to have the game won when they were clinging to a 63-61 lead in the closing seconds of regulation and LSU missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer.
The Lady Tigers got the rebound and missed two more times but got the rebound on each shot.
Finally, on their fourth attempt, Swayze Black swished a shot from the lane as the buzzer sounded.
After a lengthy video review, the ball was ruled to have left Black’s hands before the buzzer,
setting up the five-minute overtime period.
“One more rebound,” Kemp said. “That’s what we needed.”
It was the theme of the night. LSU, much bigger than the Lady Bucs, had 25 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded ETSU 51-35.
After Amy Duke’s 3-pointer put the Lady Bucs up 66-65 with 2:52 left in overtime, Gwen Washington added a hoop to make it 68-65.
LSU then scored the final six points, including LaSondra Barrett’s four free throws in the final minute of overtime.
“Any loss is hard, but the fact that we competed with an SEC team ... They were nervous at the end there, I think,” said Duke, a freshman who scored a career-high 21 points.
Duke put up ETSU’s last-gasp effort, but her last-second 3-point shot banged off the rim.
“We had it,” said ETSU freshman Cara Bowling, who had 10 points. “It was indescribable. We had the game.”
With three freshmen in the starting lineup, the Lady Bucs got off to a tremendous start. Bowling made three 3-point shots and ETSU jumped out to a 20-8 lead, and the second-largest crowd (announced at 4,092) in program history had the Minidome rocking.
“We were ready to play from the get-go,” Bowling said.
The teams traded the lead eight times and the game was tied six times.
Washington finished with 12 points. ETSU was 10 of 26 from 3-point range with Duke and Bowling making three apiece. Destiny Mitchell had 12 rebounds.
The Lady Tigers (14-6) were led by Barrett’s 18 points and 10 rebounds. She was 10 of 11 from the line. Bianca Lutley added 16 points and Courtney Jones had nine points and 11 rebounds.
LSU, which came in on a three-game losing streak, was playing without starting point guard Destini Hughes, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.
“After watching ETSU and looking at personnel, we knew anything is possible,” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, a former Lady Vol. “We were definitely not overlooking ETSU. Coming off a three-game losing streak, our team morale was down a little bit. I’m proud of them for sticking together and pulling out a tough win against very tough opponent.”
The Lady Bucs were trying to add to the list of Southeastern Conference teams they have victimized in recent years. They return to action Saturday at USC-Upstate.
“It’s tough because I feel like we should have come away with an SEC win, but I’m not gonna focus on the loss,” Kemp said. “I’m gonna focus on the good things we did tonight.”