DES MOINES, IOWA (Mar. 22, 2008) - The ETSU women's basketball team gave 13th-ranked Oklahoma State everything they could handle Saturday night, but in the end it was the Cowgirls who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as they defeated the Lady Bucs, 85-73, inside Wells Fargo Arena.
The loss may have ended the Lady Bucs' season; however, the ETSU women should hold its head high after being apart of one of the best teams in program history. ETSU closed out the campaign winning 15 of its last 17 games en route to a school-record tying 21-win season and the Lady Buccaneers' first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
ETSU opened up the game strong, thanks to the hot hand of senior sharpshooter Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio). After missing her first trey DeVault nailed two deep bombs and gave the Lady Bucs an early 10-9 lead heading into the first media timeout.
The Lady Bucs pushed their advantage to three, 14-11, when Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) laid one in underneath the basket, but nine unanswered points by the Cowgirls forced ETSU to call a thirty-second timeout as OSU held a 20-14 lead with 12:06 on the clock. In total, Oklahoma State posted a 20-7 run to go up 12, 29-17, from the 13 minute mark to 7:54 remaining in the half.
DeVault's third 3-pointer of the game with six minutes left in the half cut the Lady Buc deficit to 31-22, but ETSU was unable to inch any closer for the half. The Cowgirls took their largest lead of the first half, 39-25 on Taylor Hardeman's three with 2:32 remaining before the break and led 41-29 at halftime.
After the first 20 minutes, ETSU was 12-of-34 (35.3 percent) compared to Oklahoma State's 16-of-37 showing (43.2 percent). The Cowgirls scored 13 points off 10 forced turnovers and out-rebounded the Lady Bucs, 26-20. Both teams did a solid job distributing the ball as they combined for 16 assists (eight apiece). TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) scored 10 points and DeVault added nine, while Hardeman led all scorers with 11.
Oklahoma State opened the second half with a three-pointer from Andrea Riley, but ETSU responded with six straight points, cutting the Cowgirl advantage to nine, 44-35. However, a 9-0 run by OSU extended its lead to 17, 52-35, when Maria Cordero hit a jumper with 15:46 left in the game.
ETSU slowly chipped into the lead and stayed in the contest with the help from the long-range jumper. Three's by Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) and DeVault helped cut the Cowgirls' lead to 10, 64-54, with less than nine minutes to go in the ballgame. The 3-point shot continued to keep the Lady Bucs close as DeVault nailed her career-tying sixth trey, lowering the margin to seven, 67-60. Unfortunately the clock was a factor for ETSU down the stretch and they could never muster up another run to back into the game. OSU pushed its lead back into double figures, 75-62, with 4:07 on clock and kept its lead over 10 points for the final four minutes.
For the game, ETSU shot 35.5 percent (27-76) from the field and Oklahoma State posted a 44.1 shooting percentage (26-59). The Cowgirls held a slight one rebound advantage in the game, 46-45, but the Lady Bucs grabbed 19 offensive boards. The only stat line where there was a major difference was at the charity stripe. OSU won the game at the line as they hit 28-of-35 and ETSU was 11-of-17. Both teams committed 21 turnovers and blocked three shots, and ETSU dished out 17 assists to OSU's 16.
Senior Michele DeVault led ETSU with 22 points and tied a career-high with six three-point field goals. DeVault's closed out her illustrious career eighth all-time on the ETSU scoring list with 1,263 points and is the all-time three-point leader with 239 treys made. Sophomore's Latisha Belcher, Siarre Evans and TaRonda Wiles also helped pace the Lady Buccaneers. Belcher netted 14, Evans 12 and Wiles chipped in with 10. However, it was the attack of All-American guard Andrea Riley and senior post Maria Cordero that helped guide the Cowgirls to victory. Riley scored a game-high 26 points and Cordero added 23 on 7-of-12 shooting.
Head coach Karen Kemp has done a tremendous job building a winning program for Lady Buccaneer basketball during the past three years and plans on having it continue. Despite losing four standout seniors, Kemp returns nine players from this season, including ETSU's leading scorer and rebounder in sophomore Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.).
For the third consecutive year, the Lady Bucs have posted a winning season; marking the first time since 1984 the feat has been accomplished, as well as posting back-to-back 20-plus wins for the first time ever. In the end, ETSU closed out the year 21-12, which also marked the most games played in a single season for the Lady Buccaneers.
Oklahoma State extended its season for at least one more game as they will face the winner of Ohio State/Florida State on Monday night. The Cowgirls are currently 26-7 and rank 13th in the country.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.