NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 1, 2007) - The East Tennessee State women's basketball team missed a golden opportunity to move into a tie for first-place in conference play as they fell to Belmont, 69-66, in the Curb Even Center Thursday evening. The win extended the Bruins home winning streak to 19 consecutive games, and it marked the first conference road loss since March 2, 2006 for the Lady Bucs.
Overall ETSU dropped to 12-8, 8-2 in the A-Sun, while Belmont moved to 16-4, 10-0 A-Sun. The Lady Bucs had four players reach double figures with junior Jenny Norman (Peachtree City, Ga.) leading the way with 13 points and nine rebounds. The nine rebounds grabbed by Norman tied her career high. Once again Alysha Clark had a huge night against ETSU, finishing with 18 points and a career-best 24 rebounds. The 24 rebounds by Clark set a new school record for the Bruins.
Nichelle Akers (Sumter, S.C.) got things going early for ETSU as she hit her first two shots, putting the Lady Bucs up 7-4 at the 16:17 mark. Belmont fired right back with a 4-0 run over the next minute and a half to take its first lead of the game. During the next five minutes the lead changed hands six times, until a Jessica Bobbitt lay-up with 9:10 on the clock put the Bruins up 16-15 and they never trailed for the rest of the game.
Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) got the Lady Bucs to within two, 22-20, when she drove in for a lay-up with 6:55 left before the break; however, on the Bruins next possession Kristen Bunch knocked down a big three-pointer to put them back up five. The Lady Bucs continued to hang around with the top team in the A-Sun, but a Shaunda Strayhorn three-pointer as time expired gave Belmont its largest lead of the half, 37-29.
ETSU finished the half shooting 41.4 percent (12-29) from the field, compared to 42.9 percent (12-28) by Belmont. The Lady Bucs shot themselves in the foot at the free throw line, going 4-of-12 (33.3 percent), compared to Belmont hitting 11-of-14 (78.6 percent) during the first frame. Thompson led ETSU with eight points at the break, while Alysha Clark led the Bruins with 14.
In the second half, Norman exploded out of the start as she scored seven of the first nine points for ETSU and cut the lead to, 43-38, after completing a key three-point play. After missing her first four three-point attempts, senior Brooke Wilhoit (Sevierville) nailed her first trey with 15:55 remaining, cutting the Belmont lead to four, 45-41. However, Belmont's Amber Rockwell had an answer for Wilhoit as she hit a jumper and then a huge three-pointer to put the Bruins back up nine. The Bruins would push their lead to double digits for the first time in the contest when Clark connected on the front-end of a one-and-one, giving Belmont a 53-42 lead with 11:34 left in the contest.
During the next fifty-two seconds freshman Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) would score five straight points, which got the Lady Bucs to within six, 53-47, but ETSU had two critical possessions where they could have chipped into the lead again and could not convert on them. Belmont took its largest lead of the game, 63-51, at the 4:25 mark when Jessica Bobbitt drove in for a lay-up, but the Lady Bucs would not give up. ETSU rallied with a 9-1 run over the next three minutes, cutting the lead to 64-60 with 1:30 remaining. Unfortunately the run was a little too late for ETSU as they ran out of time and lost by the three-point margin.
The Lady Bucs finished the game shooting under 40 percent (37.3), while Belmont was a little better at 40.4 percent. ETSU was out-rebounded for the first time since Dec. 18, 2006 when they went to Virginia Tech as the Bruins grabbed 46 total rebounds, compared to 41 for the Lady Bucs. Poor free throw shooting was the key stat in tonight's game as the best free throw shooting team in the league finished 50 percent (11-22) for the game. Belmont ended 20-of-28 (71.4 percent) from the line.
The Lady Bucs will continue their stay in the Music City as they get set to take on Lipscomb Saturday at 5 p.m. (EST) inside Allen Arena. Fans will be able to listen to the game by visiting www.ETSUBucs.com.