JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 1, 2010) - With the departure of two 1,000-point scorers from a year ago, the Lady Bucs are in deep need of finding some offensive production, and it showed Monday night in their 59-51 exhibition setback to preseason ranked Tusculum inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
On a night where ETSU struggled from the field - going 19-for-80 (23.8 percent) - the Blue and Gold could have used some of the 3,332 total points scored between former Lady Buccaneer standouts Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) and TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.). Unfortunately, it's a new era for head coach Karen Kemp and the Lady Bucs, as those two players have graduated and brought their game overseas. In the end, there's no time to panic as coach Kemp will use these next two weeks to work on some weaknesses and prepare for the regular season.
"This is really what we needed," said Kemp during the postgame press conference. "We needed this test, because it doesn't get any easier for us as you see what we have on our schedule, so this was an eye-opener for the team tonight. I knew Tusculum was a really good basketball team and I want to congratulate them on their effort tonight. Now we have to regroup and start working on those things we need to correct. It all boils down to missing too many easy shots and we need to fix this before our regular season opener at Chattanooga."
Seniors Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) and Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) paced the Lady Bucs with 12 points apiece, while Belcher also pulled down 10 rebounds for the double-double. Meanwhile, freshman Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) contributed with a game-high 12 rebounds and four points in 21 minutes off the bench.
"I feel like Latisha needs to get back into the groove, because she has been out for nearly two years, and I feel once she gets her touch back she will help us this year," added Kemp. "The bright side for us tonight was Destiny (Mitchell). She has been out of practice for a week with an Achilles, but once she works her way back into shape she will do some special things for this team."
In the first half, the Lady Bucs opened the first 5 minutes, 55 seconds missing 10 of their first 11 shots, and Tusculum made ETSU pay by opening up to a 12-6 start. With Davis going out with two early fouls and the starters not clicking, coach Kemp was forced to play five underclassmen; however, no one stepped up to take over as the Pioneers continued to hold a six-point advantage after Brittni Oliver sank a pair of free throws at the 11:14 mark.
From there, Kemp put her upperclassmen back in and the Lady Bucs received a brief spark, as Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Iesha Robinson (Martinsburg, W. Va.) drained threes, cutting the deficit to two, 20-18, with less than ten minutes remaining before intermission.
After trailing for nearly 16 minutes, ETSU finally evened things up when Mitchell recorded two of her four points with 2:16 left; however, Tusculum notched the final points of the half and took a two-point lead into the locker room, 28-26.
Neither team put on a shooting clinic in the opening 20 minutes as the clubs combined to go 18-for-71 (25.4 percent). The Lady Bucs were 10-of-41 (24.4 percent), while the Pioneers went 8-for-30 (26.7 percent). ETSU held the upper-hand in rebounding, 31-23, and blocked four shots.
ETSU began the second half with a jumper by Belcher to tie things at 28, but the Lady Bucs could never get over the hump from there.
Tusculum would push its lead to as many as 10, 49-39, when Kendal Baxter netted one of her four three-pointers with eight minutes remaining, and ETSU never had the final punch to take control. The Lady Bucs got as close to six on two separate possessions, but missed shots proved to be the difference maker on Monday night.
The Pioneers weren't any better from the field as they finished 16-of-64 (25.0 percent), while the Lady Bucs won the rebound battle, 65 to 50. ETSU assisted on 11 of its 20 makes as Davis led the way with a game-high five.
Tusculum was fueled by All-American Jasmine Dunn's game-high 24-point effort in the win.
ETSU will look to regroup and close out the exhibition season on a positive note when the Lady Bucs host King College on Sunday, Nov. 7. Tip is set for 1:30 inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.