JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 10, 2011) – After picking up a pair of exhibition wins over Carson-Newman and King, the ETSU women’s basketball team will now turn the page and open the regular season as the Lady Bucs host Tennessee Tech in the first round of the Preseason WNIT on Friday night inside the MSHA Athletic Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
The Blue and Gold posted their sixth consecutive winning season in 2010-11 after recording a 19-12 mark, but ETSU had its four year run of postseason play come to a halt after falling to Jacksonville, 61-59, in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. It has been 252 days since the Lady Bucs were upset by Dolphins, and ETSU now looks to bounce back and make a run to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.
ETSU head coach Karen Kemp returns eight letterwinners from last season’s squad, including a pair of Lady Bucs who were forced to miss time last season due to injury. Red-shirt senior Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) returns for her final season after missing the entire 2010-11 campaign with a knee injury, while sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) missed the last six games after dislocating her kneecap against North Florida back on Feb. 12. Gordon – who lit fifth-ranked Xavier up for a career-high 30 points in the 2010 NCAA Tournament – played in ETSU’s first exhibition game against Carson-Newman on Nov. 3. However, the Wichita, Kan. native suffered an ankle injury against the Eagles and was forced to sit out the Lady Bucs’ exhibition finale against King on Monday night. Meanwhile, Mitchell has been gradually working back into game speed and she put together two strong efforts during the preseason. The Second Team All-Atlantic Sun and All-Freshmen Team selection averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.5 steals in 29.0 minutes during the exhibition season.
Along with Gordon and Mitchell, seniors Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) return for one final run in the Blue and Gold. Pickwell, the team’s leading scorer in the preseason (17.5 ppg), enjoyed a breakout season a year ago. The Kingsport, Tenn. native netted 70 of ETSU’s 151 three-point field goals and posted five 20-plus point games as a junior. Washington has been the most durable Lady Buc since arriving on campus in the fall of 2008 as she has played in all 94 games (64 starts) during her tenure. However, Washington’s streak may be in jeopardy on Friday night as the Manassas, Va. native missed both preseason games with a shoulder injury. Washington is eyeing a milestone during her final year as a Lady Buc, with the forward entering the 2011-12 season 168 points shy of becoming the 20th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point club.
Meanwhile, a pair of juniors in Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Iesha Robinson (Martinsburg, W. Va.), along with sophomore Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) return with more collegiate experience under their belts. Austin has a been a huge spark for ETSU this preseason as she averaged 11.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, while shooting 60 percent (9-15) from the field in 32 minutes of play. Randall played in all but one game as a freshman (six starts) and averaged 5.8 points, while also giving ETSU a lift down the stretch by averaging 10.3 points in her last six games during her rookie year. One returner who will not see action in her sophomore season is 6-foot-1 post Ashley Miles (Bowie, Md.) as she suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in preseason workouts.
Joining the eight returnees are five freshman who hope to give the Lady Bucs significant playing time in year one; however, the sixth new face, Serena Clark (Tucker, Ga.), has to sit out the 2011-12 season after transferring over from Clemson. Freshman Brianna Bogard (Georgetown, Texas), Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.), Cara Bowling (Elizabethton, Tenn.), Chelsea Bowling (Elizabethton, Tenn.) and Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) make up a loaded and talented recruiting class.
Friday marks the second time the Lady Bucs will appear in the Preseason WNIT as ETSU played in the 2007 tournament against Western Kentucky, Delaware State, and Samford. The winner of the ETSU/TTU game takes on the winner of UCLA/McNeese State on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the losing teams will be placed in a four-team consolation pod, which will be played Nov. 18-19.
Tennessee Tech won’t be an easy task for the Lady Bucs as the Golden Eagles won the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship after going 23-8, 15-3 in OVC last year. The Golden Eagles played in the postseason WNIT and lost to Auburn, 68-54, in Cookeville. Tennessee Tech returns 11 letterwinners and all five starters from last season’s squad, including 5-foot-7 senior guard Tacarra Hayes – who was named OVC Preseason Player of the Year. With all the talent returning to the hardwood, the Golden Eagles were picked the preseason favorite by the OVC coaches.
Like ETSU, the Golden Eagles are coming off an exhibition win on Monday night as Tennessee Tech defeated Bryan College, 86-41. Four players scored in double figures with Briana Jordan scoring a game-high 15 points. As a team, TTU shot 48.6 percent (36-74) from the field and forced Bryan to turn the ball over 31 times.
This will be the 23rd meeting between the two programs with Tennessee Tech holding a dominating 19-3 series lead. However, the Lady Bucs defeated the Golden Eagles, 81-77, in the 2004-05 season-opener in Cookeville.
Fans unable to make the trip to Johnson City can listen to all the action as “Voice of the Lady Bucs” John Stevens will handle the play-by-play duties on WXSM-AM 640 The Extreme Sports Monster. Friday’s game will also be broadcast live on A-Sun.TV, while live stats will be offered via Gametracker.
The first 100 students who attend Friday’s game will receive a special ETSU T-shirt, while one lucky fan will have the chance to win $100 cash during a promotion. A free Beef O Brady’s tailgate will be offered during the pregame festivities, which will be held at the north end parking lot by Summers-Taylor Stadium at 5:45 p.m.
To purchase season tickets for the upcoming basketball season, contact the ETSU ticket office at 423-439-ETSU (3878).
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.