BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (March 21, 2009) - After arriving in Bowling Green on Friday evening, the Lady Bucs finally got their first look at E.A. Diddle Arena on Saturday afternoon, as ETSU faced the media and took the court for a one-hour practice session.
ETSU, who held its 30-minute press conference with the media and practiced from 1:05 p.m. to 2:05 p.m., is now beginning its final preparations for a NCAA Tournament first round match-up with No. 4-seed Iowa State on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Central).
Fans in the Tri-Cities area will be able to view the Lady Bucs game on ESPN2, with Clay Matvick handling play-by-play duties and Sandy Sharp providing color analysis. Fans outside the Tri-Cities area can view the game in its entirety by watching online, courtesy of ESPN360.com.
The Lady Bucs (20-10) have not played since claiming the 2009 Atlantic Sun Tournament title two weeks ago, but the ETSU players are focused and will use last season's experiences to prepare for the challenge on Sunday.
"We are very excited and confident because we played Oklahoma State tough last year," said junior guard Siarre Evans. "You are motivated when you play in the NCAA Tournament and last year gave us confidence."
ETSU got its first taste of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, when the Lady Bucs received a No. 14-seed and took on third-seed Oklahoma State in Des Moines, Iowa. The Lady Bucs put up a fight against the Big 12 foe, but the Cowgirls scored 18 of the final 31 points in the last six minutes of the game and defeated ETSU, 85-73.
After enjoying the schools first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008, the outlook is completely different this time around.
"The approach started last year after we got beat by Oklahoma State," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who has guided her Lady Bucs to all four of ETSU's postseason appearances (2NCAAs, 2WNIT). "Last year, there was a lot of thrill about just making it to the tournament for the first time, but as soon as we got beat, everyone that returned knew what our goal was for 2009. After winning the conference tournament two weeks ago, the focus was then turned to winning basketball games in the NCAAs."
The junior trio of Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.), TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) and Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) will be the ones to help generate the Lady Bucs' first-ever NCAA Tournament win on Sunday evening.
Evans - the 2009 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and Tournament MVP - is looking to become the first Lady Buc since B.J. Banjo (2005-06) to score 500 points in one season. The Griffin, Ga. native is sitting at 499 points scored on the season and Evans can also pass Banjo for fifth on the all-time scoring list should the versatile star score 13 points against the Cyclones.
Meanwhile, Wiles can also join Evans on the 500-point list, and should both players reach the special milestone - it would mark the first time this feat has been accomplished since current ETSU assistant coach DeShawne Blocker and 1,000-point scorer Amy Engle did so back in 1994-95. Wiles is 15 points away off number 500 and she also ranks second on the team and in the Atlantic Sun in scoring.
While Evans and Wiles are in search of their 500-point club accomplishment, Belcher is looking to set a new record on the defensive end. The Martinsville, Va. native enters the Tournament only two steals shy of setting a new ETSU single-season record with 91 thefts. Belcher - the 2009 Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year - enters with conference-leading 89 steals and she is looking to break Nicole Hopson's mark of 90, which was set during the 1990-91 season.
Iowa State (No. 17 AP/No. 19 ESPN/USA Today) earned an at-large bid and brings a record of 24-8 (11-5 in Big 12) into the tournament. This marks the third straight year the Cyclones have made the NCAA Tournament and 10th time in the last 12 years.
This will be the first time these two teams have met, and the second straight year the Lady Bucs will be playing a Big 12 foe in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The winner of Sunday's ETSU/Iowa State contest will face the winner of Tennessee/Ball State on Tuesday night at 9:30 Eastern (8:30 Central).
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.