CINCINNATI, Ohio (March 20, 2010) - On Sunday afternoon the Lady Bucs will be making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance when ETSU squares off with third-seeded Xavier at 2:30 p.m. inside the Cintas Center.
However, ETSU (23-8) looks for a different outcome from its previous two trips to the Big Dance when facing the Atlantic-10 regular season and tournament champions on their home floor. Xavier enters Sunday's game with a record of 27-3 and the Musketeers went 14-0 in conference play this season.
In their two NCAA Tournament appearances, the Lady Bucs were defeated by No. 3-seed Oklahoma State, 85-73 in 2008 inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Then, a year ago, ETSU saw fourth-seeded Iowa State drain a tournament-tying 16 three-pointers in the 85-53 rout inside Western Kentucky's E.A. Diddle Arena.
This time around ETSU hopes to send shockwaves around the basketball world and defeat the fifth-ranked Musketeers.
"This is an exciting time for basketball fans," said head coach Karen Kemp, who has guided the Lady Bucs to all five of the Lady Bucs' postseason appearances in program history. "Three years ago this program had never played an NCAA Tournament game, and now we have done it three years in a row. So it's really, really special.
"With that said, we have a different type of attitude this year. I noticed after we won the A-Sun Championship - we were excited of course because we advanced back to the NCAA Tournament - but now we are focused and ready to compete and compete hard tomorrow against Xavier."
These teams have some similarities as both won their conference regular season and tournament titles, each program is riding long winning streaks into Sunday's game (ETSU 10 straight; Xavier 18 straight), ETSU's Siarre Evans was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year; while Xavier's Amber Harris is the reigning A-10 Player of the Year, and both schools have a pair of 1,000-point scorers and each team supplies a 1,000-point/1,000-rebound player.
While there are some quirky similarities, one difference maker surely stands out - Xavier's height advantage. As the Lady Bucs go with a small starting line-up - all under 6-feet - three of the five Musketeer starters are above 6-feet. Of those three, junior center Ta'Shia Phillips stands at 6-feet, 6-inches and Harris measures in at 6-feet, 5-inches. Phillips - who has currently scored 1,318 points and grabbed 1,096 rebounds through her first 95 games - is averaging 13.7 points and 11.3 rebounds this season. In addition, Harris has netted 1,520 points in 97 career games and she is the team's leading scorer at 15.4 points per game.
The Lady Bucs also have their two standout players in Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) and TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.). Evans - who has tallied a Division-I leading 21 double-doubles this season - is only the third player in ETSU history to reach the 1,000-point/1,000 rebound plateau this season. Evans currently ranks fifth on the all-time scoring chart with 1,809 points and third with 1,109 rebounds. Wiles also hopes Sunday isn't her last game in a Blue and Gold uniform, and she has also complied an impressive resume over her playing career. The Danville, Va. native sits behind her senior teammate for sixth all-time on the scoring charts (1,489, and she has scored 1,045 of those points over the last two years).
This dynamic duo has led the Lady Bucs to their best season in ETSU history - setting program best for wins (23), consecutive wins (10) and 3-point field goals made (207). ETSU has also won 19 of its last 20 games and some of these current players have faced this Xavier squad.
Back in 2007, the Lady Bucs dropped a nine-point game, 76-67, inside the Cintas Center. Evans, Wiles and now junior point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) were in the starting line-up that day, as Evans led the way with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Davis added 10 points and six assists as a freshman, but Phillips' 17-point, 12-rebound effort, along with Harris' 21 points were too much for ETSU to handle.
On Saturday, ETSU met the media and used its full-hour practice session to prepare for tomorrow's game inside Cintas Center.
Fans unable to make the trip to Cincinnati can catch all the action live on ESPN with Bob Wischusen handling the play-by-play and Stephanie White doing the color analysis.
Voice of the Lady Bucs "Don Helman" will also be courtside handling play-by-play duties on the Buccaneer Sports Network. To access live audio and live stats, click on the links above.
The winner of ETSU/Xavier will face the winner of Vanderbilt/DePaul on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.