JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2008) - Senior Michele DeVault (Columbus, Ohio) drained a career-high six threes and the ETSU women's basketball team moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Sun standings after knocking off Jacksonville, 80-74, snapping what was the nation's second longest home winning streak at 17 games Monday afternoon inside Swisher Gymnasium.
With the victory, the Lady Buccaneers move to the .500 mark (10-10), but more importantly jump to 6-1 in the conference; while Jacksonville saw its program-record 10-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 16-4, 6-1. The loss marked the Dolphins first defeat at home since falling to Niagara back on Dec. 18, 2006 and their first conference loss since Feb. 25, 2006 (Belmont).
Three Lady Buc players reached double figures in scoring. ETSU was led by DeVault's hot hand as she scored a team-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (6-for-7 from beyond the arc). Sophomore Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) also enjoyed stellar afternoon, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 37 minutes of work. Senior Kelly Turman (Atlanta) exploded for 14 points off the bench. Jacksonville's Virginia Gregoire led all scorers with 21 in the losing effort.
"I was extremely pleased with our level of intensity at the start, and how we came out focused and ready to play," mentioned head coach Karen Kemp, whose club has now won four straight games for the first time this season. "The most important thing today was getting the conference win and moving into a tie for first place."
Jacksonville's Virginia Gregoire opened the game with a lay-up, but ETSU quickly answered the challenge as DeVault made up for going scoreless Friday night by nailing two quick treys. The Lady Bucs would carry an 11-6 lead into the first media time with 15:50 on the clock. The Dolphins answered with a 4-0 run, but the Lady Bucs posted a 15-4 spurt of their own to take a 12-point advantage, 26-14, just under the 10 minute mark. Jacksonville narrowed the deficit to six, 31-25, with an 11-5 run, but DeVault's fourth three of the afternoon made it 34-25 with 5:03 left before the beak. From there, JU continued to cut into the lead, 34-31, but the Lady Buccaneers would finish the half scoring five unanswered points to head into the locker room up eight, 39-31. During the run, ETSU held the Dolphins without a point for the final three minutes and thirteen seconds of half.
DeVault lifted ETSU in the first half as she scored 14 points and hit four of the Lady Bucs' five threes (she opened 4-of-4). ETSU shot 42.9 percent (15-35) for the half, and Jacksonville finished at 40.6 (13-32). Both teams shot the ball well from long range as they combined to go 8-of-13 (61.5 percent). The Lady Bucs held a slight rebounding advantage, 20-18, as sophomore's Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) each grabbed four. The Lady Buccaneer defense shut down Ashley Williams, the conference's Preseason Player of the Year candidate, as she was limited to four points and three rebounds after the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, Jacksonville came out and took advantage of some ETSU errors, cutting the lead to 39-35, with 18:31 left in the contest. However, the Lady Buccaneers responded as they scored 12 of the next 14 points to push their lead to 10, 47-37, forcing the Dolphins to call their first time out. ETSU was fueled by DeVault's fifth trey (tying her career high) and Evans' first bomb of the day. The Lady Bucs continued pushing it and moved their lead to 12, 53-41, when TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) found Belcher for a lay-up. Then, DeVault continued to make it rain threes, as she nailed her sixth of the game; putting ETSU ahead, 56-45 with 13:11 remaining.
Jacksonville once again chipped away at the lead, lowering it four, 58-44, but ETSU quickly pulled it back to 10, 64-54, when Evans drove in for a lay-up at the 8:04 mark. From then on it became a game of who wanted it more and ETSU proved they were the hungrier team.
The Lady Bucs made it shaky down the stretch after having its 10-point lead at the 1:15 mark dwindle down to only four, 78-74, but ETSU made seven of its 17 free throws down the stretch to come away with the victory and spoiling JU's Pack the House day, as the Lady Buccaneers sent 823 Dolphin fans home unhappy.
For the game, the Lady Buccaneers shot 46.6 percent (27-58) from the floor, compared to Jacksonville's 44.3 clip (27-61). The Lady Buccaneers hit a season-high nine three-points and out-rebounded the Dolphins, 34-33. Belcher led the team with eight rebounds and pitched in seven points (3-of-3 from the free throw line). ETSU finished 17-of-24 from the charity stripe (70.8 percent) and only trailed once in the contest when JU took an early 2-0 lead at the 19:12 mark. The trio of Nichelle Akers (Sumter, S.C.), Wiles and Belcher went 7-of-7 from the line.
ETSU will return home for and enjoy a two-game home stand next weekend. The Lady Bucs will host Kennesaw State Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. inside Memorial Center for ETSU's "Pack the House" promotion. The Lady Bucs will hold a youth clinic following the contest and prior to the game the ETSU athletic department and Mountain States Health Alliance will host a Red Dress Luncheon, which is designed to create awareness on heart disease.
For more information on ETSU women's hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.