SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Jan. 28, 2012) – Sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) put together one dominating performance, but it was overshadowed as USC Upstate rallied past the Lady Bucs, 74-68, on Saturday evening inside the G.B. Hodge Center.
Mitchell, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds last year in Spartanburg, recorded her fourth double-double of the season (15th career) on Saturday. The Bluffton, Ga. native posted 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting and pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds in 33 minutes of play.
In a game that saw 14 ties and nine lead changes, no other Lady Buccaneer player reached double figures in scoring as freshman guard Brianna Bogard (Georgetown, Texas) finished with nine points, but had five turnovers to only one assist.
The Lady Bucs, who are still searching for their first road win of the season (0-9), dropped to 5-16, 4-6 in A-Sun play, while the Spartans picked up their fourth straight win and improved to 6-15, 5-5.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game, because everyone in our conference continues gunning for us,” said head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs have now lost three straight inside the Hodge Center. “We didn’t get off to a good start as we gave up too many baskets in transition – and once we settled in and took the lead – we started making the same mistakes we did at the start of the game. Once we started to get into foul trouble in the second half, we began worrying about not getting calls and didn’t get back on defense.
“Destiny played like a warrior tonight and you could see it in her eyes. She was getting rebounds and as well as getting the ball to the rim – which resulted in easy baskets. I was really proud of her effort, but we can’t depend on one person. I thought we did too much standing around and waited for her to make plays. Now we have to make some adjustments and hope to bounce back Thursday at Mercer.”
The first half had six ties and two lead changes, but the Lady Bucs held a one-point advantage at the break, 32-31.
Both teams traded buckets to open the first 3 minutes, 29 seconds of the contest, but with the game knotted at six, the Spartans rattled off four unanswered points to take a 10-6 lead after Tee’Ara Copney sank a three with 15:48 showing on the clock.
From there, USC Upstate continued to hold the momentum as they pushed its lead to five (14-9), but the Lady Bucs charged back courtesy of Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) and Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.). Gordon scored the first three points during the spurt, while Bond tied things at 14 after Gordon found her open underneath for an easy lay-in at the 11:21 mark. Once again, the Lady Bucs just couldn’t take the lead, and the Spartans held their largest margin of the half when Copney found Lauren McRoberts for a lay-up with less than seven minutes left, making it a 24-19 ballgame.
However, the Blue and Gold finally found some rhythm on offense and mounted a 13-4 run over the next six minutes to grab a 32-28 advantage. But a Hannah Ohl three with 21 seconds left in the half capped off the scoring as both teams went to their respective locker rooms with the Lady Bucs up one.
Mitchell scored 10 of the Lady Bucs’ 32 points in the first half, while ETSU shot 37.1 percent (13-35) from the field and went 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. USC Upstate shot 42.4 percent (14-33) from the floor and made two of its eight three-point field goal attempts. The Lady Bucs went to the free throw line seven more times than the Spartans in the opening 20 minutes and outscored Upstate by five at the charity stripe – 6 to 1.
The final 20 minutes matched the play of the first half as neither team could gain a lead larger than five points until the final seconds of the contest.
USC Upstate quickly erased its halftime deficit as McRoberts scored two of her 16 points and put the Spartans ahead 42-38 with 15:50 to play. After Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) sank the Lady Bucs’ first three-pointer of the game on the following possession, Bogard gave the Blue and Gold a two-point cushion after netting a free throw and a lay-up one-minute later.
However, the Spartans again pushed their lead to four, but another three by Pickwell capped off a 9-2 run and the Lady Bucs led, 53-50, with a little over 10 minutes left.
Unfortunately, fouls started piling up for ETSU and the Spartans took advantage of the situation. USC Upstate was in the bonus at the 10:55 mark and went to the line 14 times from that point forward.
Despite being in foul trouble, the Lady Bucs still led by five with 7:25 remaining in the game, but a 7-1 Spartan run put USC Upstate back on top for good after Tyra Smith capitalized an and-one to make it a 64-63 contest with 5:08 showing on the clock.
The Lady Bucs pulled even twice after the Spartans regained the lead and ETSU still had chances down the stretch; however, turnovers and ill-advised shots proved to be too costly.
With the game tied at 66, a Pickwell missed jumper led to a Smith lay-up on the opposite end, while a turnover by Gordon on the following trip down the floor gave Smith another easy lay-in with 2:07 to go. Mitchell then pulled the Lady Bucs within two – and after the Blue and Gold got a much-needed stop – the Lady Bucs had two possessions to tie or take the lead.
After Gordon was called for too many steps on the first possession, Mitchell missed a lay-up with 36 seconds left and the Lady Bucs sent USC Upstate to the line with 16 ticks remaining. Copney made both free throws to extend the lead to four and two more freebies by Smith following a turnover by Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) put the game on ice.
For the game, the Lady Bucs shot 38.8 percent from the floor and went 2-for-10 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Spartans shot 51.7 percent in the second half and finished 29-of-62 from the field (46.8 percent), while going 3-for-13 from three. After going to the free throw line twice in the first half, the Spartans made 14 trips in the second half to finish 13-of-16 at the stripe, compared to ETSU’s 14-for-20 showing.
The Spartans recorded 49 bench points as Copney led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Shelby Hicks also registered a double-double after finishing with 13 points and 10 boards.
ETSU continues its three-game road swing on Thursday night when the Lady Bucs travel to Macon, Ga. to face Mercer. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the University Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.