JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2011) - North Florida had been waiting since last March to face the Lady Bucs after ETSU got the better of them in the Atlantic Sun Championship.
On Monday, the Ospreys got revenge in a classic nip-and-tuck contest as Brittany Kirkland scored a game-high 25 points and UNF outlasted the Lady Bucs, 65-62, inside UNF Arena.
In a game that had 10 ties and 16 lead changes, the Lady Bucs had one final opportunity to tie, but Tara Davis' (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) three from the right corner fell short of the rim and the Ospreys prevailed.
Despite missing on the last attempt, Davis led ETSU with 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, while freshman Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) added 16 points and eight rebounds. Red-shirt senior Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) also gave everything she had as she tallied six points, 11 rebounds, and forced three steals.
With the defeat, ETSU dropped to 8-9, 5-3, while the Ospreys won their third straight and improved to 5-11, 3-4.
"We knew North Florida was going to be gunning for us after what happened last March in the conference tournament, but we still should have won the game," commented head coach Karen Kemp. "UNF just wanted it a little bit more than we did. We missed too many easy lay-ups and open shots, and UNF knocked down theirs. They did what it took to get this win and we didn't."In the first half, UNF came out with something to prove early on, but the Lady Bucs stood strong after being dealt the first punch.
UNF opened the game by scoring the first nine points and led 13-3, heading into the first media timeout at the 15:31 mark. The Lady Bucs finally got on the board when Davis put in a free throw - and from there - ETSU went on an 11-5 run to cut its deficit to four, 18-14, when Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) laid one in on a fast-break with 10:36 showing on the clock. From there, ETSU continued to chip away at the Osprey advantage, and Davis gave the Blue and Gold their first lead when her two free throws with less than six minutes remaining made it, 25-24.
Despite going over five-plus minutes without a field goal, the Lady Bucs did a great job getting to the free throw line as ETSU made seven of its eight free throws from the 5:48 mark to 3:11 remaining before the break. With the success at the charity stripe, ETSU managed to push its lead to three after Randall made one of her two attempts with a little over three minutes left in the half. Ironically, it was also Randall who snapped the field goal drought when her jumper with 1:18 to play made it 32-29, and the Lady Bucs carried a three-point advantage into the locker room.
"We are extremely young, but I was proud of the group that we had on the floor to end the first half after T.D., Gwen, and Destiny were on the bench in foul trouble," said Kemp. "They kept the lead in our hands and they fought really hard. I will recognize them for that and they will be rewarded for their hard play."
The Lady Bucs, who shot 9-for-26 from the field in the first half, made up for their shooting woes at the free throw line as ETSU went 14-of-17 from the stripe in the first 20 minutes. The Ospreys were slightly better from the field - going 11-for-29 - but UNF only hit six of its 12 free throw attempts.
Just like the first half, UNF started the second strong and erased its three-point deficit to take a 39-36 lead with 15:48 remaining in the contest. Fortunately, the Lady Bucs quickly tied the game at 39 when Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) knocked down her first three of the game, and things remained tight during the remainder of play.
After trailing by two, the Lady Bucs regained a 49-45 lead, but two three-pointers by Jadhken Kerr put the Ospreys back on top, 53-51, with 6:49 showing on the clock. Once again ETSU fought back and regained a 55-54 advantage after Mitchell put in back-to-back lay-ups at the 4:37 mark.
Things continued to remain tight from there, as the game saw five ties and five lead changes over the next two minutes, fifty-eight seconds, but with the Lady Bucs leading 61-60, Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) fouled Kirkland 80 feet away from the basket. Kirkland sank both free throws and ETSU never recaptured the lead. The Lady Bucs had several chances to regain the lead on the next trip down, but missed lay-ups from Belcher and Davis haunted the Blue and Gold.
After Juliemay Syquio grabbed the defensive rebound, she came down the floor and made a lay-up - putting her team up three. Then, after Belcher missed two free throws with 42 seconds left, ETSU decided not to foul. The call worked as Mitchell converted a fast-break lay-up with 14 ticks showing on the scoreboard; however, North Florida's Jade Givens was fouled with seven seconds remaining and she netted both.
From there, the Lady Bucs had one timeout left in their pocket and they used it after Davis crossed the half court line with 4.2 seconds left. Following the timeout, Davis received the ball after she inbounded it, but her heave never hit iron and the Ospreys celebrated with the three-point victory.
ETSU struggled with its shooting as they shot 32 percent (19-59) and finished 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc. The Ospreys shot 42 percent (22-53) for the contest and made six of their 15 three-point attempts. UNF out-rebounded the Lady Bucs by four, 43-39, while ETSU scored 22 points off 23 Osprey turnovers. The Blue and Gold executed from the free throw line - going 20-of-28 - but when it was late in the game the lid seemed to be a bit tighter as ETSU missed three of its last six freebies.
"Our free throw shooting was disappointing down the stretch and I told the team in the locker room that we have to make free throws on the road," added Kemp. "When they are clutch free throws, we have to step up there with confidence and that comes with repetition. We have to get into the gym every day and put up 50 or 100 attempts, so if we are back in this situation we can knock down those shots."
Along with Kirkland, Larkira Jones finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Lady Bucs now return home for a five-game homestand, beginning Saturday afternoon when ETSU hosts Lipscomb. Tip is set for 1:30 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.