JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 25, 2012) – The ETSU women’s basketball team threw everything they had at Florida Gulf Coast, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the Eagles’ perfect conference season.
Sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) scored a game-high 23 points (9-of-17 shooting) and pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds, but the Blue and Gold were done in by a strong FGCU first half as the Eagles held on for a 71-64 victory on Saturday afternoon inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
Mitchell became the first ETSU player since two-time A-Sun Player of the Year, Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.), to register a 20-point, 20-rebound game and the first A-Sun player to accomplish the feat this season. Along with Mitchell’s monster day, senior Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) capped off her final game in the Dome by reaching a special milestone. Washington entered the day eight points shy of 1,000, and she finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, moving her into a tie for 19th place all-time on the ETSU scoring chart with 1,006 career points.
With the loss, ETSU finished its regular season with a record of 8-21, 7-11 in A-Sun play, while FGCU became only the third team in league history to finish an A-Sun season with a perfect record after improving to 26-2, 18-0.
"We had some defensive break downs in the first half as we let them shoot some wide open threes, and I really believe that was the difference in the game,” said head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs will see FGCU yet again in the A-Sun quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 29 in Macon. “We knew if we gave them open looks they would knock down the three and we gave them a few in the first half. With that said, I thought we did a much better job defending the three in the second half, but there were two straight possessions where we let them drive and gave them and-one’s. Those plays were big, but I think we are in a good place right now. I was really pleased with our senior performance, and Destiny was also out there playing with a lot of heart and determination. Of course, no one likes to lose, but I feel good where this team is, heading into the conference tournament next week.”
The Lady Bucs got the start they wanted as ETSU led 13-4 in the opening 5 minutes, 18 seconds, but the Eagles woke up after a sluggish beginning by recording 10 unanswered points to regain a 14-13 lead after Eglah Griffin laid one in with 10:06 remaining.
From there, the Lady Bucs led one other time after Washington connected on a jumper, but FGCU finished the final eight and a half minutes on a 20-8 run to take an 11-point lead into the break, 34-23.
After missing five of their first seven attempts from beyond the arc, the Eagles made 5-of-8 from three in the final 12 minutes to finish 7-for-15 in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the Lady Bucs missed on all four of their 3-point attempts and only shot 30.3 percent (10-33) from the field, while FGCU shot 44.4 percent (12-27). Turnovers proved to be costly by the Blue and Gold in the first half, as ETSU turned the ball over 11 times, resulting into 16 points on the offensive end for the Eagles.
ETSU’s perimeter defense was much better in the final 20 minutes as the Lady Bucs held FGCU to 3-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc and outscored the league’s top defensive team by four, 41-37.
FGCU started the second half with a pair of free throws from Sarah Hansen to propel its lead to 13, but the Lady Bucs didn’t back down from the A-Sun regular season champions.
Following the two made free throws, ETSU mounted a 14-5 run over the next six-plus minutes to pull within four as freshman guard Cara Bowling (Elizabethton, Tenn.) sank one of her two free throw attempts, making it a 41-37 game with 12:32 to play.
However, the Eagles found the right time to drain one of their three second-half threes as Griffin netted a triple on the next possession to put FGCU back up seven, but again ETSU stood strong.
With less than 10 minutes to play, Mitchell recorded two free throws to cut the deficit to five, but yet again, it was Griffin who stepped up with another clutch three to make it a 54-46 affair with 9:13 showing on the clock.
From there, that’s when the Eagles capitalized on their two and-one’s to push their advantage back into double figures, 59-47, but the Lady Bucs continued putting fear into FGCU.
After trailing by 12 with 5:42 remaining, ETSU made it a two possession game when a jumper by Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) brought the score to 64-59 with 56 seconds to play. Unfortunately, the Lady Bucs had to play the fouling game and the Eagles prevailed by seven.
The Lady Bucs – who had made at least one three-pointer in 91 consecutive home games – saw the streak come to an end after going 0-for-7 on Saturday, while also finishing 24-for-69 from the field (34.8 percent). Meanwhile, FGCU shot 44.9 percent (22-49) from the field and went 10-of-25 from beyond the arc. Mitchell recorded 43 percent of ETSU’s rebounding as the Lady Bucs out-rebounded the Eagles by 16, 47 to 31, and converted 26 offensive rebounds into 23 second-chance points.
FGCU had four players score in double figures with Hansen leading the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The rematch of this game is set for noon on Wednesday, Feb. 29 inside Mercer’s University Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.