Lady Bucs down Kennesaw State in overtime thriller, 79-78
Thursday, December 18, 2008

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec. 18, 2008) - It was only fitting the league's two preseason favorites couldn't determine the outcome in regulation on Thursday night in Kennesaw.


After squandering a 17-point second half lead and missing golden opportunities to win it in regulation, the Lady Buccaneers stepped up and flexed their muscles in the five-minute overtime period to escape with a 79-78 victory over Kennesaw State inside the KSU Convocation Center.


Juniors Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) and Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) have enjoyed feasting on the Owls since arriving at ETSU, and the same results appeared in the box score again tonight. For the second straight game Evans notched a double-double, finishing with 19 points and a career-tying 16 rebounds; while Belcher tallied her second career double-double against Kennesaw State. Belcher ended with a season-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, and sank the go-ahead free throws in the extra stanza for the Lady Bucs to hang on for their first conference win of the year.


With the win, ETSU improved to 6-0 lifetime against the Owls, but more importantly it gave the Lady Bucs some much-needed momentum heading into the Christmas break. The Lady Bucs moved their record to 3-5, 1-1 A-Sun after picking up back-to-back road wins, and ETSU will now have a 10-day break before playing at Wake Forest next Sunday. Kennesaw State saw its three-game winning streak come to an end and dropped to 3-5, 1-1.


Despite being held to only six second half field goals and one in the overtime period, the Lady Bucs took charge at the charity stripe. ETSU made its lone field goal attempt with 4:52 remaining in the extra time, but seven free throws to KSU's one proved to be the difference maker.


Evans gave the Lady Bucs a quick two-point lead, 72-70, in overtime, but a free throw by Jennifer Baker and a Montinique Nixon jumper gave the Owls a 73-72 advantage with 3:33 remaining. From there, ETSU went to the free throw line 10 times down the stretch, beginning with two big freebies by freshman post Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) at the 3:18 mark. The pair of free throws put the Lady Bucs back up one, but Kennesaw didn't back down, as Greteya Kelley drove in for a lay-up with three minutes to go, giving the Owls their last lead at 75-74.


Following a Kennesaw State five-second inbound violation, Belcher was fouled and her free throws put ETSU back up one, and two more foul shots by the Martinsville, Va. native with 1:20 to go gave the Lady Bucs a 78-75 advantage. Then, with ETSU up four, Angie Smith nailed her first 3-pointer of the game - cutting the Lady Buc margin to one - 79-78. However, sophomore guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was fouled, but missed both free throws with five ticks left on the clock. Fortunately, junior TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) came away with the loose ball as time expired.


After shooting a season-high 52.6 percent (20-38) in the first half, the Lady Bucs were held to 7-for-39 for the remainder of the game - finishing with a 35.1 clip (27-77). ETSU was 20-of-29 (69 percent) from the foul line, compared to 15-for-23 (65.2) by Kennesaw State. The Lady Bucs won the battle on the boards - grabbing a season-high 52 rebounds to 43 by the Owls. Both teams did a tremendous job forcing turnovers, as they combined for 48 (24 apiece) and turned those into 49 points (27 by ETSU).


In the first half, the opening 10 minutes were tightly contest as neither team could establish any breathing room. Both squads combined for three ties and seven lead changes in the span; however, things changed in the final 10 minutes as ETSU took full advantage of the first stanza.


Kennesaw State opened the game on a brief 4-0 run, but the Lady Bucs would eventually even the contest at 8-all when Evans nailed a jumper at the 15:38 mark.


From there, the teams traded buckets over the next five minutes, but with the Owls leading, 21-17, the Lady Bucs used some Kennesaw State foul trouble and stifling defense to break the game open. With Brittney Henderson - last season's A-Sun Player of the Year - being sent to the bench with two fouls at the 9:21 mark, ETSU held the Owls to only two field goals in the final seven minutes which ignited a big Lady Buccaneer run. In addition, strong 3-point shooting and unselfish play also led to ETSU outscoring Kennesaw 29-11 throughout the rest of the half.


With Kennesaw leading 21-19, Evans nailed back-to-back treys to put ETSU ahead 25-21 with less than nine minutes to go before intermission. Freshman Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) joined the fun and extended the Lady Buccaneer lead to nine, 34-25, when she drained the team's third 3-pointer of the half with 5:19 on the clock. Eventually ETSU saw its lead balloon to 14 when Evans found Wiles open for a jumper with seven ticks left on the clock - which led the Lady Bucs into the locker room up, 46-32. The Lady Bucs held Kennesaw State to only two field goals in the final seven minutes of the half and ETSU tallied seven of its 13 assists during the dominating run.


ETSU shot a blistering 52.6 percent (20-38) in the opening half and hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. Kennesaw was held to a 38.7 shooting clip (12-31) and went 0 for 3 from 3-point land. The Lady Buccaneer defense forced the Owls into 13 first half turnovers - resulting in 19 points on the offensive end. ETSU enjoyed a well-balanced scoring attack as eight of the nine Lady Buccaneer players who saw action scored at least two points, with Evans leading the way with 12.


The Lady Bucs pushed their lead to as many as 17 in the second half (49-32), but Kennesaw exploded with a 24-11 run to cut the margin to four, 60-56, after Kelley sank a pair of free throws with 7:58 remaining.


Then, for the second straight game, ETSU found itself in another battle down the stretch. 


In the final six minutes neither team held a lead larger than five, as Henderson's jumper with less than four to go put the Owls ahead, 68-63. Fortunately, ETSU didn't fold on the road and scored seven unanswered to regain the advantage, 70-68, when Washington connected on a lay-up with 1:44 left.


Henderson tied the game with a deep jumper at the 1:20 mark, but after ETSU missed five shots in the final minute, the game went to overtime.


To go with Evans' and Belcher's stellar performances, Washington contributed with 14 points, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists in her second straight start.


Smith finished with a team-high 18 points, while Kelley added 17 in the losing effort for Kennesaw.


The Lady Bucs will now enjoy a little break before returning to action. ETSU concludes its season-long five-game road trip on Sunday, Dec. 28, when the Lady Bucs travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. to face Wake Forest. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum.


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