SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Jan. 4, 2010) - If the Lady Bucs want any chance of making a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, they better find a way to strengthen its defense - especially in the post.
USC Upstate's 6-foot post player Chelsea McMillan went off a for a game high 31 points and 11 rebounds, and the Spartans gave the Lady Bucs an early wake-up call in conference play with a 85-78 loss on Monday evening inside the G.B. Hodge Center.
The Lady Bucs were led by senior TaRonda Wiles' (Danville, Va.) 25-point effort. Wiles, who shot 10-of-22 from the field, also finished with five assists and four steals in 38 minutes of work.
With the loss, ETSU dropped to 4-7, 2-1 in A-Sun play; while Upstate picked up its first win (in five tries) over the Lady Bucs and improved to 7-6, 1-3.
The Lady Bucs came out ice cold to start the first half, as ETSU missed eight of its first nine shots, resulting in USC Upstate taking an early 13-7 lead at the 13:43 mark. Over the next 5 minutes, 2 seconds the Lady Bucs used a brief 12-4 spurt to regain a 19-17 advantage, but McMillan rattled off the next five points for the Spartans - forcing ETSU to burn a 30-second timeout after USC Upstate recaptured a 22-19 lead with 7:32 remaining before the break. Fortunately, for the Lady Bucs, they were able to put McMillan on the bench with her third foul at the 5:34 mark, and ETSU took a 34-30 lead into the locker room.
ETSU shot 39.4 percent (13-33) in the first half and missed all eight of its three-point shot attempts. The Spartans, meanwhile, took advantage of their shot opportunities - connecting on 50 percent (13-26). The Lady Bucs did a better job attacking inside, resulting in 10 more trips to the free throw line than Upstate. ETSU was 8-of-12, while the Spartans made both of their attempts. Wiles led ETSU with 10 points and McMillan paced Upstate with 13.
Upstate wasted little time evaporating its four-point deficit, as the Spartans scored nine of the first 13 second half points to take a 39-38 lead, following McMillan's lay-up with 16:24 showing on the clock. From there, both teams traded six leads over the next 4 minutes, 3 seconds - but with the game tied at 47-all - the Spartans got hot from 3-point range. Kendra Wallace nailed back-to-back treys and extended the Upstate lead to eight, 62-54 with 6:43 left in the contest.
ETSU was able to clip the deficit to four, 64-60, when Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) sank a jumper with five minutes to play, but the Lady Bucs weren't able to get any closer.
The Lady Bucs pulled to within 75-70 on Wiles' second three-pointer of the game at the 1:08 mark; however, the Spartans made their free throws down the stretch to capture the seven-point victory.
For the game, ETSU shot 45.3 percent (29-64), but finished 3-for-16 from beyond the arc. Upstate recorded a 48.3 shooting percentage (28-58) and were slightly better from long range (6-of-19). Both teams recorded 35 rebounds apiece, and the Lady Bucs posted 14 fast-break points to Upstate's zero. The Spartans ended 23-of-26 from the free throw line, compared to ETSU's 17-for-25 showing.
Senior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) had her double-double streak come to a halt at eight straight games after finishing with 13 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Junior Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) netted 14 and dished out five assists in the ETSU loss.
Wallace joined McMillan in double figures with 20 points.
The Lady Bucs have little time to dwell on this loss, as ETSU continues its five-game road swing on Thursday afternoon at Kennesaw State. Tip is set for 3 p.m. inside the KSU Convocation Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.