Lady Bucs' upset bid falls short against Xavier in NCAA Tournament, 94-82
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gordon fuels ETSU with career-high 30 points; Lady Bucs tie school record with 15 threes


CINCINNATI, Ohio. (March 21, 2010) - The Lady Bucs threw everything they could - and then some - at the fifth-ranked Xavier Musketeers on Sunday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


Unfortunately, with the Lady Bucs trailing by one with less than three minutes to play, Xavier stepped up and closed out the game on a 13-2 run to escape a major upset by ETSU, as the third-seeded Musketeers captured a 94-82 victory on their home court inside the Cintas Center.


Junior point guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) shined on the big stage by pouring in a career-high 30 points and drained five of the Lady Bucs' school-record-tying 15 3-point field goals. Along with Gordon's effort, senior and two-time Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) closed out an illustrious career with a 20-point, 7-rebound performance. Fellow senior and two-time Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference performer TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) chipped in with 14 points, six boards and two steals.


For the third straight year, the Blue and Gold exited the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a loss; however, after falling by 32 to Iowa State a year ago, ETSU showed the country what Lady Buccaneer basketball is all about. The Lady Bucs, who never gave up and fought hard for the entire 40 minutes on Sunday, had their program-best 10-game winning streak come to an end, while finishing the year with an ETSU record 23 wins (23-9).


"Obviously 23 years ago when I began coaching, I got in this game to win so I'm very disappointed that we lost, but I am so proud of this team and what they did today because I am sure that no one in this country thought it would be a ball game with two minutes to go," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who has guided ETSU to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.  "I told the team in the locker room they need to keep their heads high, because they have nothing to be ashamed of.  I told them before the game to leave it all on the court and between those lines.  They did, they left it out there. I am so proud of this group because obviously we had a height disadvantage, with Xavier's 6'6, 6'5, but we didn't let that stop us, we kept fighting and fighting until the very end.  I hate to see it end, but I am glad that we competed and showed people the ETSU Lady Bucs can play basketball."


The Lady Bucs showed the country all about their up-tempo, high scoring game, including a record-setting first half. In the opening 20 minutes, the country saw a lot of fireworks and runs, as the Lady Bucs drained a first round NCAA record 12 threes, and the half had two ties and four lead changes.


The Musketeers stormed out to an early 9-0 lead; however, a three-pointer by Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) and a lay-up from Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) settled ETSU's nerves with only 3 minutes, 10 seconds coming off the clock. Once again Xavier gained a brief spurt to grab a 15-5 lead, but a 15-5 Lady Buccaneer run tied the game at 20, when Evans knocked down a three at the top of the arc with 11:42 left in the half.


The Musketeers again mounted a 13-1 run over the next four-plus minutes, but the 3-point shot continued to keep the Lady Bucs in the game, as back-to-back treys by Gordon made it 33-27 with 8:05 left before the break.


The threes continued to rain inside Cintas Center and Gordon's fifth bomb of the half gave the Lady Bucs their first lead of the game, 42-41, with less than three minutes before intermission.


However, Xavier stole momentum as Special Jennings' three-pointer at mid-court banked off the glass as time expired - giving the Musketeers a 50-45 lead at the half.


For the half, 12 of ETSU's 16 field goals made were from beyond the arc and the Lady Bucs shot 60-percent from long range; while hitting 55.2 percent of their shots overall. Meanwhile, Xavier shot 47.6 percent (20-42) in the first 20 minutes, while outscoring ETSU - 24 to 2 in the paint. The Musketeers also out-rebounded the Lady Bucs by 11, 24-13, and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points. Fortunately, the Lady Bucs were able to get out and run, as ETSU held a 16-5 advantage in fast-break points, and both clubs scored 13 points off turnovers.  


In the second half the Lady Bucs couldn't get the long-range shot to fall and Xavier capitalized by opening the first 3 minutes, 11 seconds on a 10-2 run to take a 60-47 lead. The Lady Bucs continued to fight back and made it a nine-point contest, 62-53, but Xavier pushed its margin up to 15, 75-60 after Amber Harris scored two of her game-high 31 points at the 8:50 mark.


Again, ETSU didn't back away from the tall giants as Evans and Wiles started a 20-5 run with back-to-back threes, and the Lady Bucs pulled to within one, 81-80, when Davis found Gordon open for a jumper with 2:45 to play.


The jumper brought all 4,122 fans on their feet and Xavier used the home-court advantage to its liking, as the Musketeers finished the game on a 13-2 run to escape with the 12-point win.


For the game, ETSU shot 43.8 percent from the field (28-64), and the Lady Bucs knocked down a program-tying 15 threes (31 attempts) - which was one off from tying the all-time best in a NCAA Tournament game as well. Xavier shot 43.9 percent for the contest (36-82) and finished 7-of-26 from beyond the arc (7-26). The Lady Bucs assisted on 16 of their makes with Davis leading the way at seven. The Musketeers outscored ETSU 50-14 in the points and netted 28 second-chance points. However, the Lady Bucs recorded 25 fast-break points, but the Lady Bucs were an uncharacteristic 11-of-17 from the free throw line.


With Harris leading the way at 31 points, fellow Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy candidate Ta'Shia Phillips added 23 points and 21 rebounds.


Sunday was a bittersweet day for the Blue and Gold, as Evans and Wiles said good-bye to the Lady Buccaneer faithful after posting astonishing playing careers. Over the four years, the dominate duo compiled 84 victories - including four consecutive trips to the postseason play. Evans finished her career fifth on the all-time scoring charts (1,829) and third in rebounds (1,116). Meanwhile, Wiles enjoyed a stellar a career as well, finishing sixth all-time with 1,503 points.


"It's really hard to put Siarre's and TaRonda's careers into words, because they have done so much for this program," added Kemp.  "They made a difference the day they stepped onto the campus of ETSU.  They are winners - and I am not saying we haven't had winners before - but they are winners and knew how to compete.  I think we were fortunate to get them, and I think they feel fortunate to have been at ETSU.  I told the players in the locker room that if we don't continue to have success next year and the year after, that Siarre and TaRonda will call them and chew them out because they have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears out there for this program."


Xavier will take on sixth-seeded Vanderbilt on Tuesday for the right to advance to the sweet 16.


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