Lady Bucs use strong first half to top Hatters, 78-59
Thursday, January 14, 2010

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 14, 2010) - The ETSU women's basketball team outscored Stetson 39-17 in the first half and the Lady Bucs hung on to defeat the Hatters, 78-59, on Thursday evening inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.

The Lady Bucs were led by senior TaRonda Wiles' (Danville, Va.) 19-point effort, while sophomore post Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes of work.

The victory marked ETSU's third consecutive win, as the Lady Bucs improved to 7-7, 5-1 in A-Sun play - setting up an all important showdown with league-leading Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Johnson City. The Eagles defeated Campbell 64-59 on Thursday night to improve to 12-3, 7-0. With the loss, Stetson saw its two-game winning streak come to halt and the Hatters dropped to 3-13, 3-4.

ETSU came out on fire to start the game, as the Lady Bucs hit eight of their first 12 shot attempts and led 19-4 after Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) nailed a 3-pointer at the 14:12 mark. Stetson never had an answer for the Lady Bucs' surging start, and ETSU eventually saw its lead soar to 23, 37-14, when Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) found sophomore sharpshooter Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) open for three with 5 minutes, 13 seconds left before the half. ETSU never saw its lead dip below 20 for the remainder of the stanza, and the Lady Bucs went into the break up 22, 39-17.

In the opening 20 minutes of play, ETSU shot 42.1 percent from the floor (16-38) and were 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Stetson only converted on seven of its 27 shot attempts (25.9 percent) and nailed one trey (nine attempts). The Lady Bucs forced Stetson into 15 first-half turnovers and ETSU outscored the Hatters 12 to 2 in the paint.

The Lady Bucs were able to extend their lead to as many as 25 points early in the second half. Evans found Washington open for three - putting ETSU up 47-22 - but Stetson wouldn't go down without a fight.

With ETSU leading 60-40 at the 9:27 mark, the Hatters mounted a 16-6 run over the next 6 minutes, 20 seconds to cut the deficit to 10, 66-56, following a pair of Jessica Conner free throws with 3:07 showing on the clock.

Fortunately, the Lady Buccaneer defense limited the Hatters to a mere three points in the final three minutes, and ETSU was able to walk away with the 78-59 home victory.

For the game, ETSU shot 36.4 percent from the floor (28-77), compared to Stetson's 33.9 percent clip (20-59). However, the Lady Bucs did an excellent job out-rebounding the visitors from Florida, as ETSU held a plus-18 margin - 55 to 37. ETSU also assisted on 16 of its 28 made field goals, with Evans leading the way at five.

Joining Wiles and Washington in double figures was Evans. The Preseason Player of the Year selection finished with 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals in 24 minutes of work. In addition, ETSU's freshmen post of Ashley Benedict (Rome, Ohio) and Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) provided solid performances. Benedict ended with a career-high nine points and 11 rebounds, while Austin also pulled down 11 boards and netted five points.

Stetson was led by Tierra Brown's 16-point effort in the loss.

ETSU will now focus its attention to a critical conference battle on Saturday afternoon, as the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast enter Johnson City. Florida Gulf Coast won the regular season title a year ago, and has won 22 consecutive conference games since falling to the Lady Bucs back on Jan. 8, 2009 in Fort Myers.

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