Lady Bucs use strong second half to rally past Jacksonville, 86-77
Saturday, January 3, 2009

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 3, 2009) - The rematch of the 2008 Atlantic Sun Championship lived up to its hype Saturday afternoon when the Lady Bucs and Jacksonville Dolphins took the floor inside Memorial Center.


With ETSU trailing by as many as 15 in the first half and 11 in the second, the Lady Buccaneers dug deep and powered their way past Jacksonville, 86-77.


The victory marks the Lady Bucs' seventh straight home win over a conference foe and ETSU moved its mark to 4-6, 2-1 in A-Sun play. The Dolphins are now 1-7 all-time against ETSU and saw their record fall to 5-7, 1-2.


Four Lady Buccaneer players scored in double figures, with junior Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) leading the pack with 19 points (16 in the second half) and seven rebounds. Fellow junior and Virginia native, TaRonda Wiles (Danville) also came through in the clutch - pouring in 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 36 minutes of action. Sophomore Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) ignited the Lady Bucs with 14 points off the bench, while freshman post Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) pitched in with 11.


"We definitely didn't play an entire 40 minutes of basketball today; however, I was really pleased with our effort in the second half," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who is now two wins shy of reaching her 200th career victory. "At halftime, I told the girls to cut down on our turnovers and not give up second chance points. We did exactly that in the final 20 minutes, which proved to be the difference maker."


In the first half Jacksonville jumped all over the Lady Bucs early, as the Dolphins opened up to a 21-6 run in the first six minutes of the contest. During the run coach Kemp made the quick pull of her starting five, and went with a new group that showed more heart and intensity.


With the Dolphins up 15 and a fresh group of Lady Buccaneer players on the floor, (Tara) Davis stepped up as the leader and got ETSU into rhythm. The Lady Bucs managed to cut the deficit to eight, 23-15, after sophomore Shannon White (Kansas City, Kan.) laid one in with 11:21 on the clock. From there, Kemp reinserted the original starting five, and the time on the bench worked. For the next four minutes the Lady Bucs continued to chip into the JU lead, and eventually pulled it down to four, 30-26, when Belcher converted on a 3-point play at the 7:18 mark.


Jacksonville pushed its lead back to 11, 37-26 with 6:17 to play, but the Lady Bucs scored six unanswered and lowered the margin to 37-32, after Wiles sank a pair of free throws when she was intentionally fouled by Virginia Gregoire. Unfortunately, ETSU couldn't pull any closer and JU took a 45-37 lead into the break.


The Lady Buccaneers had no answer on defense as the Dolphins made 19 field goals (out of 43) in the opening 20 minutes, compared to ETSU's 13-of-31 (41.9 percent). ETSU was also dominated on the glass, 25 to 19, while 12 of JU's rebounds came on the offensive end and were converted to 13 second chance points. Once again turnovers were the Lady Bucs' Achilles, as they coughed the ball up 14 times and the Dolphins responded with 19 points off those miscues. The only area ETSU got anything to work came at the free throw line - where the Lady Bucs were a perfect 7-of-7 at the charity stripe.


Fortunately for the Lady Bucs, the second half was a different story.


ETSU out-rebounded Jacksonville by 17, 30-13, and only committed four turnovers in the final 20 minutes. The Lady Buccaneers forced the Dolphins into five second-half miscues, but those turnovers proved to be costly, as ETSU scored 11 points on the errors. ETSU also buckled down on defense and its zone pressure gave the Dolphins fits. After draining 19 first half field goals, Jacksonville was limited to only 12; while the Lady Bucs turned the page and knocked down 19 of their own in the final stanza.


The Lady Bucs did an excellent job attacking the Dolphins down low to start the second half, as Belcher went to the free throw line twice in the opening minute and ETSU cut the deficit to six, 45-39, with 19:19 to play.


Jacksonville had one little run left in the tank by expanding its lead back to 11 (50-39), but over the final 18:30 the Lady Bucs outscored the Dolphins 47-27 to claim victory.


With Jacksonville leading 59-55 at the 13:23 mark, ETSU started its run when Wiles connected on a jumper, and a turnover by Danielle Gray, followed by a Devin Thompson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) lay-up evened the game at 59, with 12:31 left in the contest. Gray would hit a pair of free throws on JU's next possession, but Davis' 3-pointer with 10:49 remaining gave the Lady Bucs a 62-61 lead - which they never relinquished.


The Dolphins got to within four, 70-66, when Jessica George hit a three-pointer with seven minutes to go, but a quick 6-2 Lady Buccaneer run over the next two minutes sank the Dolphins.


For the game ETSU shot a season-high 46.4 percent (32-69) and outrebounded the Dolphins, 49-38. Fourty-two of the Lady Bucs' 86 points came in the paint, while the ETSU bench also contributed with 29. The Lady Bucs shot a season-best 81 percent (17-21) from the free throw line, as four players were a perfect 2-of-2.


Like Davis, freshman Natalie Pickwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) also sparked the Lady Bucs off the bench - finishing with seven points and three rebounds. Despite having her streak of scoring in double figures come to an end at nine straight games (six points), junior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) stepped up big with 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals.


DaVina Hamilton led the Dolphins with 19 points, while Crystal Grable notched a double-double (10 points/11rebounds) in the losing effort.


The Lady Bucs close out their brief two-game homestand on Monday night, when ETSU hosts North Florida. Tip is set for 4:45 p.m. inside Memorial Center.


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