NASHVILLE (Feb. 18, 2012) – Despite leading for over 36 minutes of the game, the ETSU women’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a second half meltdown, as freshman guard Katie Carroll buried a three in the corner with 16.4 seconds remaining to carry Belmont past the Lady Bucs, 49-44, on Saturday night inside the Curb Event Center.
After leading by as many as 13 points early in the second half and by 12 with less than 10 minutes to play, the Lady Bucs were outscored 24-7 in the final 9 minutes, 25 seconds, as Belmont capped off the stunning comeback victory. In addition, foul trouble proved to be a factor in the second half, as the Lady Bucs were whistled for 14 fouls, including a technical by freshman Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) midway through the second half, which started shifting all the momentum to the Bruins. Belmont – who didn’t even attempt one free throw in the first half – went 12-for-16 from the charity stripe in the second half, compared to ETSU’s 3-of-7 showing.
Sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) did all she could to lift the Lady Bucs to a win after registering her eighth double-double of the season (15 points/12 rebounds), while red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes of action.
With the loss, the Lady Bucs dipped to 7-20, 6-10 in A-Sun play, while also having their 14-game conference winning streak in the Music City come to an end. Meanwhile, Belmont enjoyed its Senior Day and moved its mark to 11-16, 10-6. Following the game, ETSU learned they punched its ticket to the A-Sun Tournament after Lipscomb lost to USC Upstate earlier in the day. However, the best the Lady Bucs can do is move from the eighth seed – which they are currently in – to the seventh slot, meaning ETSU will play its quarterfinal game on Wednesday, Feb. 29 in Macon, Ga.
“This was a tough loss, because we came out and played so well defensively, while building an 11-point lead at the half,” said head coach Karen Kemp. “I told the team at the break, we needed to come out with the same intensity and play as a team offensively. Unfortunately, it was our offensive woes that got us tonight. We only scored three points in the final 7-plus minutes of the game, and it’s hard to win games when you’re not putting the ball in the goal. Then, we started fouling Belmont, and let them get points with the clock stopped. The momentum shifted at that point.”
The defensive intensity by the Lady Bucs was very impressive in the opening 20 minutes of the contest.
ETSU held the Bruins to only one field goal in the opening 9 minutes, 50 seconds and did the same in the final 5 minutes, 27 seconds as ETSU took an 11-point lead into the break, 26-15.
ETSU used a pair of runs to take the momentum into the locker room, as the Blue and Gold rushed out to a 9-2 spurt in the opening minutes of the first half. Then, with the Lady Bucs up two at the 6:57 mark, ETSU closed the stretch on a 13-4 run to lead by double figures at the conclusion of the half.
The 15 points allowed by the Lady Bucs marked a season-low, while ETSU’s defense forced the Bruins into 11 turnovers, resulting into 10 points on the offensive end. The Lady Bucs also won the battle on the glass in the opening 20 minutes as ETSU out-rebounded Belmont by five, 22 to 17, while the Blue and Gold played clean defense after only committing three fouls.
The Lady Bucs continued playing strong defense in the second half, but it was the mental mistakes and a stagnant offense that cost the Blue and Gold.
ETSU pushed its lead to 13, 29-16, when sophomore guard Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) found Mitchell open for the fast-break lay-up at the 18:37 mark, while a jumper by Duke with less than 10 minutes to play gave the Lady Bucs a 37-25 advantage.
However, just when it looked like the Lady Bucs were about to spoil Belmont’s “Senior Day” inside the Curb Event Center, the wheels came off.
Belmont started slowly chipping away at its deficit and made it 10-point contest following a jumper by Molly Ernst – and after Duke missed a lay-up on the next possession – Torie Vaught pulled down the rebound and Duke was whistled for a foul with 9:05 remaining. Following the personal foul, Duke was charged with a technical, which gave Ernst two made free throws to pull the Bruins within eight.
After the Ernst free throws, Belmont received the ball and made it a 37-31 game when Carroll found Vaught for a lay-up with less than nine minutes left to play. The Lady Bucs silenced the run when Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) made her only field goal of the game and Gordon converted a three-point play to put the Blue and Gold back up 10, 42-32, at the 7:10 mark.
Unfortunately, the Lady Bucs went ice cold down the stretch as Belmont closed the final 7-plus minutes on a 17-3 run to pull off the rally.
Despite scoring its final points with 3:46 left, ETSU still had a chance to take the lead with under a minute to play; however, the referees called an illegal screen on Mitchell as Pickwell was open for three with 45.5 seconds remaining.
From there, Belmont held onto the ball until Carroll’s shot with 16.4 seconds left hit the bottom of the net, putting over 1,200 Bruin fans into a frenzy. ETSU had one final look, but Bogard’s three was off the mark and Belmont iced the game with a pair of free throws.
The Lady Bucs shot 28.3 percent (17-60) from the field and made only two of their 14 three-point attempts, while Belmont shot 31.5 percent (17-54) and went 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.
ETSU out-rebounded Belmont by six, 46-40, but it was seven costly second-half turnovers that came back to haunt the Blue and Gold down the stretch. The Bruins – who scored nine points off those turnovers – finished the game with 14 points off 17 Lady Buccaneer miscues. The Bruins also assisted on all but two of their 17 makes, while ETSU only had eight on 17 made field goals.
Belmont was led by Haley Nelson’s 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Ernst came off the bench to add 12.
The Lady Bucs return home to close out regular season play as ETSU hosts Stetson on Thursday evening inside the MSHA Athletic Center. Tip is set for 4:45 p.m.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.