Clutch free throw shooting and pressure defense lead Lady Bucs to season's first win, 72-68
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 26, 2008) - Leading by as many as 13 points in the second half, the ETSU women's basketball team had to overcome a physical and scrappy Appalachian State club by sinking six consecutive free throws in the final minute of the game, lifting the Lady Buccaneers to their first win of the season, 72-68, in front of 2,517 fans inside Memorial Center on Wednesday night.


The Lady Bucs (1-3) were led by junior guard Siarre Evans' (Griffin, Ga.) second consecutive double-double (18th of her career), as she finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. In addition, junior post Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and a season-best seven steals in 37 minutes before fouling out with 24 seconds left in the game. The Mountaineers (1-4) were led by Sade Means' 17 points and six steals.


"It was not pretty, but we really needed a win tonight, commented head coach Karen Kemp. "Getting the win was important for us and we can build on this, by proving we can win a close game. We still need to find our identity, because I thought we played extremely well against Vanderbilt, but this upcoming road trip will show us how strong of a team we really are."


Both teams got off to a sloppy start, but suffocating Lady Buccaneer defense and outstanding offensive rebounding propelled ETSU to an early four-point lead, 15-11, heading into the game's first media timeout at the 13:25 mark. ETSU forced the Mountaineers to cough the ball up eight times in the span - resulting in 10 points off the miscues - and six offensive boards also turned into six Lady Buccaneer points.


The Mountaineers took their first lead of the night when Canesha Edwards' lay-up made it 16-15 with 11:42 to play in the opening frame, but a Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) lay in and Natalie Pickwell's (Kingsport, Tenn.) first career three-pointer inside the Dome gave ETSU a 20-17 advantage with less than nine minutes to go in the half.


From there, the contest remained tight as there were two ties and eight lead changes, but with time expiring Evans found TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) open for lay-up and the Lady Bucs carried a 30-29 lead into the locker room.


The first half saw the teams turn the ball over a total of 31 times, but the difference maker was second chance points. ETSU grabbed 12 offensive boards and converted those into 12 points. Each team made 11 field goals and two three-pointers, while combining for 15 assists on the 22 made field goals.


ETSU started the second half with pressure defense and forced a turnover prone team into a lot of mistakes. Appalachian State turned the ball over six times in the opening four and half minutes, giving the Lady Bucs a 44-31 lead thanks to a 14-2 run.


However, with the Lady Bucs leading by 13, the Mountaineers used a run of their own over the next four minutes to retake the lead, 49-48, when Brittney Spencer's lay-up with less than 11 minutes left capped off an 18-4 spurt.


Again, like the first half, the game remained a battle even though ETSU never trailed after Evans hit two free throws with 9:45 on the clock, putting the Lady Bucs ahead, 51-49.


With the Lady Buccaneers leading 66-64, Evans nailed a pair of freebies to push the lead to four; however, Brittany Mixon was fouled with 24 ticks remaining and her two free throws lowered the deficit back to two, 68-66. Fortunately, ETSU put the ball back into Evans' hands and she sank two more free throws. After Catherine Williams' jumper with 11 seconds remaining cut it to two, 70-68, sophomore point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sealed the game by making it 6-for-6 at the charity stripe for the Lady Bucs in the final minute of the contest.


To go along with Evans' and Belcher's solid performances, Wiles and Thompson also stepped up big for ETSU. Wiles ended with 16 points (7-of-14 shooting), five rebounds and two steals, while Thompson pitched in with 10 points, seven boards and two steals in 25 minutes of work.


For the game, ETSU forced a season-high 35 turnovers, and the Lady Bucs turned those into 31 points. Also, the Lady Bucs did an excellent job on the glass by outrebounding the Mountaineers 41 to 37. With those 41 rebounds 22 were on the offensive end, which resulted in 18 second chance points.


The Lady Bucs also finished 26-for-34 (76.5 percent) from the free throw line, compared to Appalachian State's 13-of-18 (72.2 percent) showing.


ETSU now ventures out on a season-long five-game road swing, beginning Monday night in Athens, Ga. The Lady Bucs will face the SEC perennial power Georgia Bulldogs inside Stegeman Coliseum at 7 p.m.


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