ETSU wins eighth straight; ties program record with 21 wins
MACON, Ga. (March 3, 2010) - Prior to Monday's practice, junior point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) came to the team with a new motto for the conference tournament - "No Mercy."
It's safe to say the Lady Bucs bought into the slogan after cruising to an 84-49 victory over eight-seeded Stetson in the quarterfinals of the 2010 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Tournament on Wednesday afternoon inside Mercer's University Center.
The Lady Bucs were led by A-Sun Player of the Year Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.), as she recorded her 52nd career double-double - ending with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Griffin, Ga. native shot 7-of-12 from the field (3-for-4 from three) and forced four steals in 28 minutes of play. Fellow senior and First Team All-Conference selection TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) also chipped in with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes of work.
ETSU posted its eighth straight win and improved to 21-8 - tying the most wins in program history. Meanwhile, Stetson saw its season come to an end and finished 6-24 on the year.
"I thought we came out and started a little bit slow, but once we got relaxed and found our rhythm things picked up for us on both ends of the floor," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who has now guided the Lady Bucs to four straight conference semifinal appearances. "Our focus today was on defense and I was really proud of their effort by holding Stetson under 50 points. We also did a much better job taking care of the basketball in the second half. I credit my guards for doing a really good job of not making too many turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
"Before every game I ask my staff what their word of the day is and today's quotes were "No Mercy" and "Leave no doubt," said Kemp. "When we step on the court, we want everyone to know that this team is focused. We aren't satisfied with just a regular season championship. Our goal is to return back to the NCAAs, so I think the quote definitely fit today."
In the first half, Stetson got off to a hot start, hitting its first four shot attempts, and grabbed a 10-7 lead after Ashli Jackson nailed her second trey from the corner at the 16:34 mark.
From there, the Hatters cooled off, and Evans and Wiles showed the fans why they were unanimous first team all-conference selections.
The senior duo scored 18 of the next 22 Lady Buccaneer points and ETSU opened up a 15-point lead, 29-14 when Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) scored two of her 10 points on a jumper with 8:30 showing on the clock. Evans highlighted the run with 12 points.
ETSU wasn't hindered by a 4 minute, 25 second scoring drought midway throughout the first half, as the Lady Bucs took 19-point lead into the break, 37-18.
For the half, the Lady Bucs shot 44.1 percent (15-34); while ETSU limited the Hatters to a 28.0 shooting percentage (7-25). After hitting its first two 3-point attempts, Stetson closed the half 0-for-7.
The Lady Bucs used the opening 3 minutes, 17 seconds to extend their halftime lead to 46-22 when Wiles found Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) all alone for an easy lay-in.
Eventually ETSU saw its lead soar to 30, 71-41, when Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) nailed one of her long-range 3-pointers and coach Kemp was able to go deep to the bench as all 12 players saw minutes - including 10 reaching double figures.
"I was really pleased by the offensive and defensive effort from the bench today," added Kemp. "I didn't feel like we lost a beat when we made substitutions.
"Ashley Benedict came in and gave us some big points and rebounds. Natalie Pickwell also knocked down some big threes, and I thought Johneshia Good ran the floor well to pick up a of couple lay-ups."
The Lady Bucs shot 51.4 percent in the second half and finished 33-of-69 for the ballgame (47.8 percent). Stetson was held to 31.7 percent shooting (19-60) and the Lady Bucs out-rebounded the Hatters 46 to 37. After turning the ball over eight times in the opening half, ETSU only coughed the ball up four times in the last 20 minutes. On defense, the Lady Bucs forced 18 total turnovers and cashed them in for 15 points on the offensive end. ETSU's bench also outscored Stetson's 28 to 8.
ETSU, who set a new margin of victory in the conference tournament at 35 points, will now have a day off in between games.
"The beauty of being the one or two seeds is having that day off," added Kemp. "Fortunately, for us we didn't' have anyone play 30-plus minutes, so that helped as well."
As for Davis and the Lady Bucs keeping the "No Mercy" motto intact for the remainder of the tournament - the answer is yes.
"Once I told the team about having no mercy the players kind of rolled with it," added Davis, who was one of five players to score in double figures with 11 points. "I wasn't expecting anybody to take it to heart, but we did, so I think it had a bit of an impact today. Since it worked so well today we are going to keep it with us on Friday."
Stetson was led by Natasha Graboski's double-double effort as she finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson also added 14 for the Hatters.
ETSU now awaits the winner of Belmont/Kennesaw State. Tip of Friday's semifinal game is slated for noon.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.