Belcher, Pickwell help power Lady Bucs past Belmont, 86-76
Sunday, February 15, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 15, 2009) - Junior Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) scored a season-high 25 points and freshman Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) came off the bench to score all eight of her points in critical parts of the second half, and the Lady Buccaneers powered their way past Belmont, 86-76, Sunday afternoon inside the Curb Event Center.


The victory marked ETSU's fourth series sweep over a conference foe this season and the Lady Bucs improved to 15-9, 13-3 in A-Sun play. The ETSU win also gives the Lady Bucs a two-game lead over Belmont for the number one seed in next month's Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, which will be held inside Lipscomb's Allen Arena. The Bruins dropped to 16-9, 11-5 with the loss.


To go with Belcher's and Pickwell's strong efforts, junior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) has now made it three straight games with a double-double. Evans posted her 13th of the season - finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in 36 minutes. Sophomore point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) enjoyed her homecoming to the Nashville area, as she poured in a career-high 15 points and dished out seven assists. Freshman post Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) tallied her second straight game with double figure scoring by ending with 11 points and seven rebounds.


"Prior to the game our focus was to take care of the basketball, and during the timeout (at the 18:29 mark of the first half) the focus was still to take care of the ball but push the ball down the floor and not force anything," commented head coach Karen Kemp, whose team has now won four straight against Belmont. "Once we settled down and let the game come to us, things started to turn around into our favor. In the end, we were able to come out with a big win today, but now we need to regroup and turn our attention to Campbell."


The hangover from the Buccaneer men's loss inside the Curb Event Center last night carried over on Sunday afternoon for the Lady Bucs, as Belmont took advantage of five ETSU turnovers in the opening two and half minutes and grabbed a quick 7-0 lead. However, the Lady Bucs quickly erased the poor play and scored seven unanswered of their own and forced the Bruins to call a 30-second timeout after Washington laid one in at the 16:17 mark. ETSU was finally able to see its lead grow to four, 11-7, but Amber Rockwell - who the Lady Bucs held to one point in Johnson City - exploded by sinking a pair of 3-pointers and tied the game at 15-all with 13:55 remaining in the first half.


From that juncture, the game was tightly contested as there were six ties and 12 lead changes in the final 13-plus minutes of the first half.


ETSU was able to take a 32-27 lead after Evans scored her first points of the day with a long trey, but the Bruins evened the game back up for the fifth time of the game (33-33) when LaWanna Holiday connected on a 3-pointer with 5:10 left on the clock.


The Lady Bucs were able to enjoy a small cushion at the break, as ETSU closed out the final two minutes and twenty-two seconds on a 6-2 run to take a 45-41 lead into the locker room.


Both teams shot the ball well in the opening 20 minutes, as ETSU posted a 51.4 shooting percentage (18-35) and Belmont had a 48.6 clip (17-35). The Lady Bucs held a plus-10 advantage on rebounding - 23 to 13 - and scored 17 points off 12 offensive rebounds. Belmont used 10 Lady Buccaneer turnovers to good use, as the Bruins scored 16 points off those miscues. Evans, Belcher and Davis all had nine points for the Lady Bucs, while Rockwell led all scorers with 14.


The Lady Bucs did an excellent job using Belcher in the post to start the second half.


The 6-2 junior scored 10 of ETSU's first 13 points to start the final stanza and the Lady Bucs saw their 4-point halftime lead grow to 10, 58-48, after Belcher sank a pair of free throws with 16:06 remaining in the contest.  


With ETSU doing a great job forcing Jessica Bobbitt into three fouls at that 16-minute mark that only meant Rockwell would get more touches and it paid off for Belmont. Rockwell nailed three 3-pointers to start the second half and cut the Bruin deficit to four, 58-54, with 14:23 on the clock.


However, over the next four minutes, ETSU pushed its lead back up to nine, 63-54, when Pickwell nailed a long jumper in front of the Lady Buccaneer bench with 10:17 left in the contest. Then, Pickwell was able to get herself positioned behind the arc, and stepped up with two huge treys - which gave ETSU a 71-61 lead at the 6:14 point - marking the first time the Lady Bucs held a double digit advantage.   


Despite losing Bobbitt with five fouls (4:46), Belmont never folded and lowered its deficit to six, 71-65, but Davis' first points of the second half paid off in a big way when she nailed a three from the corner - putting the Lady Bucs back up nine - 74-65 with four minutes left.  


Belmont played the fouling game for the final minute and a half of the contest, but ETSU was able to hang on for the 10-point win.


Both teams hit 28 field goals a piece and Belmont nailed nine 3-pointers to ETSU's seven, but the Lady Bucs sank 12 extra free throws - which proved to be the difference maker. ETSU finished 23-for-33 from the charity stripe, compared to Belmont's 11-of-11 showing. In addition, the Lady Bucs dominated the Bruins on the glass - 47 to 30 - and 21 offensive rebounds turned into 26 second-chance points. ETSU also assisted on 20 of its 28 field goals and posted 11 fast break points.


To go with Belcher's 25-point effort, the Martinsville, Va. native finished with seven rebounds and tied her career high with five blocks. Meanwhile, Pickwell also grabbed four rebounds.


"We told Tish that teams were going to start doubling down on her, and she had to be strong with the basketball," said Kemp. "She is a really good post player and we feel like one-on-one she can take it in against anybody."


"Natalie also stepped up big for us tonight," Kemp said. "After the game I like to pick someone out to recognize in the locker room and she was that player. She gave us a huge lift when we needed it."


ETSU continues its four-game road swing on Thursday night when they travel to Buies Creek, N.C. to face Campbell. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the John W. Pope Convocation Center.


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