Davis, Belcher lifts ETSU to 12-point win over Spiders in home opener
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 14, 2010) - Senior guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) scored a career-high 27 points and red-shirt senior post Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) recorded her eighth career double-double (19 points/11 rebounds) as the ETSU women's basketball team extended its home winning streak to 12 games after defeating Richmond, 96-84, Sunday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
With the win, ETSU improved to 2-0 on the young season, marking the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign the Lady Bucs opened the year with consecutive victories. Meanwhile, Richmond, who was picked fifth in the preseason Atlantic 10 coaches poll, dropped to 1-1 on the year.
"I am pleased with the win today, because Richmond is a very strong and talented team," said head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs tallied their ninth straight regular season win. "I always stress how important it is to protect our home floor, because we don't like teams coming in and leaving with a smile on their face. There are some things we still need to work on, but we shot the ball well and took advantage of our free throws."
Taking full use of the freebies was no lie, as Davis and Belcher combined to go 25-for-25, while the team finished 29-of-34 (85.3 percent). Along with setting a new career high in points, Davis also set a school and career record, going 14-for-14 at the charity stripe, while Belcher's 11-of-11 showing was a personal best as well.
"T.D. and Tish played well for us tonight," added Kemp. "Sometimes we would like to see Tara slow it down out there, but that's just how she plays the game. She goes hard at every possession and she is the leader we need her to be. For Tish to finish with a double-double despite not being 100-percent healthy shows how much passion she plays with each game."
Playing with passion is something the entire Lady Buccaneer team came out with as ETSU shot 55.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes and carried an eight-point lead into the break, 40-32.
In the opening minutes, ETSU hit five of its first seven shots and led 12-4; forcing Richmond to burn a 30-second timeout after Davis found Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) open for an easy lay-up at the 14:52 mark. The Lady Bucs extended their lead to as many as 12, 23-11, when freshman guard Jasmine McIntosh (Bowie, Md.) sank a jumper with less than ten minutes to play in the half. However, just when it looked like the Blue and Gold had things under control, Richmond picked up its play and pulled to within four, 24-20 - but after coach Kemp inserted three of her starters back into the game - the Lady Bucs were able to push their margin back into double figures, 40-28. In the end, the Lady Bucs held an eight-point lead at the break.
Just as ETSU was lighting things up, the Spiders were the exact opposite as Richmond shot 35.1 percent (13-37) in the opening stanza. The Lady Bucs were led by Davis' 11 points at the break, while Richmond's Crystal Goring led all players with 12.
Once again the Lady Bucs came out with some intensity to start the first 5 minutes, 12 seconds of the second half as ETSU moved its eight-point halftime lead to 19, 55-36, after Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) swished a jumper with 14:48 showing on the clock. However, Richmond turned up the heat on defense and its press caused the Lady Bucs to turn the ball over, resulting in a Spider comeback.
Fortunately, the spurt didn't come full circle as Richmond only pulled to within seven, 59-52, on consecutive free throw attempts by Leah Johnson at the 10:32 juncture. From there, ETSU was able to get its lead back to 19 on two separate possessions, and the Blue and Gold came away with the important victory in their home opener.
For the game, the Lady Bucs shot a season-high 52.5 percent (31-59), while Richmond was held to a 37.8 shooting clip (31-82). For the second straight game ETSU won the rebounding battle (47-41) and the points in the paint category (44-28).
"Despite giving up 84 points, I felt we did some good things on defense, because we contested a lot of shots," added Kemp. "Our goal for each game is to hold our opponent to 38-percent shooting and we reached that tonight. However, there are still some things we need to improve on and we will focus on those over the week as we prepare for Appalachian State on Friday night."
Joining Davis and Belcher in double figures were Mitchell and junior Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.). Fresh off a double-double effort at Chattanooga, Mitchell came up one rebound shy of another as she finished with a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Pickwell totaled 10 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes of work.
After scoring a career-high 34 points in the win at Western Carolina Friday night, senior all-conference player Brittani Shells netted a team-high 25 for the Spiders.
The Lady Bucs return to action Friday night when ETSU hosts Appalachian State to jump-start homecoming weekend and the NCAA Pack the House event. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. Fans who bring two or more canned food items receive a special $1 admission on Friday night as all the proceeds go to the Second Harvest Food Bank.