By Joe Avento
Press Sports Writer
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 20, 2011) – Winning used to come so naturally for the East Tennessee State women's basketball team that a mid-December non-conference victory over Morehead State would hardly be cause for joy.
But this year has been a bit different for the Lady Bucs, and after losing their first 10 games, they finally got a win on Tuesday night.
ETSU saw two double-digit leads evaporate before pulling away down the stretch to beat Morehead State 68-57 at the Minidome.
"I've been saying for a while if we could get the first one ..." ETSU coach Karen Kemp said. "They hadn't stopped fighting all year, but to be 0 for 10, you do get down and discouraged. Hopefully tonight will be the turning point for us."
Of course, it didn't come easy.
ETSU forced 26 turnovers and held the Eagles to 25 percent shooting to win on a night when it turned the ball over 21 times and shot 37 percent.
The Lady Bucs were up 48-36 with 11:56 remaining and seemed to be in a relatively comfortable position. But Morehead scored the next 12 points to tie it back up.
"We did lose our composure," Kemp said. "Young teams do that. It does get frustrating, but they kept fighting."
Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) then keyed a 7-0 run for the Lady Bucs and, despite some questionable shot selection coming home, they held on for the win.
"It feels awesome," said Mitchell, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. "We needed this win. It's been kind of a tough because we haven't had a win yet. We should be on a roll now."
Freshman Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.) led ETSU (1-10) with 14 points. She made 6 of 9 from the field and blocked three shots.
"I've never lost that many games in a row," Bond said. "It's been tough. We were having problems getting together and playing as a team. But now we're getting to know each other better and playing as a team. This definitely has us rolling. We're definitely ready for the next game."
Morehead State (3-9) was led by Ashar Harris, who had 22 points and 18 rebounds. Linda Dixon added 12 points. The Eagles launched 30 shots from 3-point range, making seven of them. They fell to 0-5 on the road.
An 8-0 run midway through the first half gave the Lady Bucs a brief 10-point lead, but Morehead State immediately clawed its way back with eight in a row of its own. Mitchell and Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.), both frontcourt starters, had their first-half minutes limited when they picked up two fouls.
ETSU, which never trailed, led 29-28 at halftime. It was the Lady Bucs' first halftime lead of the season.
Austin picked up a quick third foul in the second half and played just 14 minutes, but she managed 11 rebounds in that span.
"Down the stretch, Tosha Austin was just a beast on the boards," Kemp said.
The Lady Bucs face a quick turnaround as the Blue and Gold return to action Thursday night when ETSU hosts former SoCon rival Chattanooga. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
Notes: Tuesday marked only the eighth time ETSU and Morehead State have met and the first since Dec. 4, 1990 … the Lady Bucs have now won two straight against the Eagles and tied the series at four games apiece … Destiny Mitchell recorded her first double-double of the season (13pts/10rebs) and is now averaging 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds on the season … Tosha Austin registered a season-high 11 rebounds and it marked the second time this season the junior post has recorded double figure rebounds … Maria Bond’s 14-point effort was her third double figure scoring game during her rookie season … the Lady Bucs forced a season-high 26 turnovers and scored 28 points off those Morehead State miscues, compared to the Eagles only posting eight points off the 21 ETSU turnovers … ETSU finished 71.4 percent at the free throw line (20-28), marking the eighth time the Lady Bucs reached the 70-percent threshold this season … the Lady Bucs have now won 21 of their last 25 games at home.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.