LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 12, 2008) - If there was ever a time for a much-needed win for the ETSU women's basketball team it came on Friday night.
For the third time in the last four years head coach Karen Kemp and the Lady Buccaneers upset an SEC foe on the road, as ETSU walked into Memorial Coliseum and stunned Kentucky and its 4,531 Wildcat fans, 59-50.
Four Lady Buccaneer players scored in double figures as junior TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) led the way with a game-high 19 points. Fellow junior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) notched her fourth double-double of the season (19th of her career), posting 10 points and grabbing a career-tying 16 rebounds.
This marks ETSU's first road win of the season and the Lady Buccaneers moved their record to 2-5. Ironically, last year the Lady Bucs knocked off another SEC contender (Alabama in Tuscaloosa) for their first road win of the season as well. With the loss, Kentucky dropped to 5-4.
"This win was really big for us tonight," commented Kemp, who coached the Lady Bucs to their first win over Kentucky in program history. "We came out with a lot of passion and energy, and I think we are capable of playing like this every night. Hopefully this win gives us some confidence heading into a tough conference battle with Kennesaw State."
In the first half, Evans and Wiles gave ETSU a lift early on, as they combined to score the Lady Bucs' first nine points and the visitors held a one-point advantage six and half minutes into the contest.
Over the next seven-plus minutes, the Lady Bucs used the 3-point shot to extend their lead to seven, 23-16, after Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) nailed a deep three with 6:29 remaining in the half. Davis - who came off the bench for the first time this season - gave ETSU a huge spark during the run as she nailed three bombs, while freshman Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) also drained one from outside the arc as well.
Eventually, from the 11:02 mark to 2:38 remaining in the half, ETSU used a 20-9 run to push its lead to 12, 31-19, after Kami Phillips (Augusta, Ga.) found Wiles underneath for an easy lay-up. The Lady Bucs again led by 12 on two more possessions, but Kentucky closed out the final 56 seconds on a 6-2 run and ETSU went into the locker room up, 35-27.
The Lady Bucs shot 42.9 percent (15-35) in the first 20 minutes, while Kentucky was 12-of-31 (38.7 percent). The difference maker was five of ETSU's 15 field goals were threes, where as the Wildcats were held to zero (0-2). ETSU only turned the ball over three times, compared to 11 by Kentucky - which the Lady Bucs converted into 11 points on the offensive end.
ETSU wasted little time extending its lead back into double figures to start the second half.
Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and Washington each pitched in with lay-ups, and then Wiles' first 3-pointer of the game put the Lady Bucs ahead, 42-29, forcing Kentucky to call a timeout with only two minutes coming off the clock.
However, with ETSU up 49-38 at the 10 minute mark and Belcher on the bench with four fouls, Kentucky scored nine unanswered to lower the deficit to 49-47 at the 5:25 mark.
From there the game became a battle.
Over the next two minutes both teams traded buckets, but with the Lady Bucs leading 51-49, ETSU stepped up its game.
Following an offensive rebound by Evans and a timeout by Kemp, Davis came through in the clutch by sinking a jumper with less than three minutes remaining. Then, following Amber Smith's missed three, Davis found Wiles open near the ETSU bench and her jumper gave the Lady Bucs a six-point cushion, 55-49.
The Wildcats never had an answer for the two daggers and four free throws down the stretch iced the game for ETSU.
"I am really pleased with how we kept our composure down the stretch," added Kemp. "It would have been really easy for us to give up on the road at Kentucky, but we stayed focused and held our ground. We really grew up tonight."
Washington - who made her first collegiate start - finished with a stellar game. The Manassas, Va. native ended with 10 points (4-of-6 shooting) and eight rebounds in a season-high 38 minutes. Davis came thru with 11 points and three rebounds.
Kentucky's Eleia Roddy totaled a double-double (13 points/11 rebounds) in the losing effort.
For the game ETSU shot 35.8 percent (24-67), but more importantly the Lady Bucs finally showcased some 3-point shooting. After going 2-for-27 in its last two games, ETSU finished 6-of-11 (54.5 percent). Davis made three, while Evans, Washington and Wiles each netted one. Despite being outrebounded by seven, 51-44, the Lady Bucs forced the SEC foe into 21 turnovers.
ETSU returns to action on Thursday, Dec. 18, when the Lady Bucs take on conference rival Kennesaw State inside the KSU Convocation Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.