JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 9, 2012) – With a short-handed Kennesaw State team lingering around midway through the second half, the ETSU women’s basketball team needed someone to step up and take over.
Fortunately, for the Blue and Gold, senior sharpshooter Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) stepped up down the stretch as she tallied eight of her game-high 20 points in the final six minutes of the game to lift the Lady Bucs past the Owls, 77-61, on Monday night inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
Along with Pickwell, both red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) and sophomore guard Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) added 12 points each for the Lady Bucs. Randall finished 5-of-10 from the field and added two assists, while Gordon forced three steals and was 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
The Lady Bucs have now won three straight and improved to 4-11, 3-2 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, while the Owls – who only dressed six players – dropped to 7-10, 2-4.
“I feel like we have played Lady Buccaneer basketball over these last couple games and that’s due to the fact we are starting to know each other a lot better,” said head coach Karen Kemp, whose Lady Bucs moved to a perfect 12-0 lifetime against Kennesaw State. “We are starting to come together as a team and are finding the chemistry we were missing early on in the season. If we keep working hard and staying focused, I think we can achieve our goal of becoming conference champions.
“As far as the game goes, Kennesaw State only had six players, so we were helping them out early on by standing around the perimeter and passing it around. Before the game, I told the team we have to look to attack and try to get them in foul trouble. I don’t know why we didn’t stick with the game plan at the beginning, but fortunately, we made some adjustments and came away with the win.”
Just as she did to finish the contest, Pickwell got the Lady Bucs rolling to start the game as she scored the first six points and the Blue and Gold extended their lead to 8-3 courtesy of a pair of free throws by Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) in the opening thee-plus minutes of the contest. The Owls responded as Taylor Mills knocked down two three-point field goals over the next 4 minutes, 14 seconds to even things up at 13 with 13:31 showing on the clock.
The Owls continued to enjoy a spark as they eventually pushed their lead to seven (22-15), but Cara Bowling (Elizabethton, Tenn.) answered Mills’ long-range shooting by connecting on a pair of triples of her own – and after Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.) found Mitchell for an easy lay-in – the Lady Bucs capped off a 16-2 run to take a 31-24 lead with 6:41 remaining in the first half. From there, ETSU kept the lead and held a seven-point margin at the break, 40-33.
Three-point shooting came in handy for the Lady Bucs as six of their 11 made field goals came from beyond the arc, while ETSU also cashed 13 Kennesaw State turnovers into 20 points. ETSU also had solid ball movement in the opening 20 minutes with the Blue and Gold registering nine assists and only turned the ball over six times.
In the second half, Randall stole a page out of Pickwell’s book as the Orlando, Fla. native scored the first five points of the stanza to extend the Lady Buccaneer advantage to 12, 45-33, but the Owls quickly responded and cut their deficit to five (47-42) after Sametria Gideon laid one in with 16:35 left in the game.
From there, the ETSU lead hovered around the five-point margin for the next ten minutes, but with the Lady Bucs leading 61-56 Pickwell stepped up and nailed some big shots.
Pickwell’s trey with less than six minutes left in the game snapped a two-plus minute scoring drought by both teams and the senior leader’s third and final three with 4:28 remaining proved to be the dagger as it put the Lady Bucs up 13, 69-56.
Kennesaw State was able to cut the lead to 10, but ETSU closed the final three minutes on an 8-2 run to capture the 16-point conference victory.
For the game, the Lady Bucs shot 40.3 percent (27-67) from the field and finished 9-of-25 from three (36 percent). Meanwhile, Kennesaw State – who opened the first 12 minutes of the second half shooting 56.3 percent – missed its final seven shots and finished 22-for-53 (41.5 percent).
After shooting an uncharacteristic 61.3 percent from the free throw line Saturday vs. Mercer, the Lady Bucs bounced back in a big way as ETSU went 14-of-15 from the charity stripe. In the end, the Blue and Gold forced Kennesaw into 22 turnovers and finished with 32 points off those miscues, while ETSU only coughed the ball up ten times.
Four of Kennesaw State’s five starters scored in double figures as Gideon led the way with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
After finishing up the homestand with a 4-1 mark, the Lady Bucs now hit the road for two conference games, beginning Thursday night at North Florida. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside the UNF Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.