Lady Bucs give 12th-ranked Vanderbilt a scare inside Memorial Center, 66-55
Friday, November 21, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 21, 2008) - The Vanderbilt women's basketball team have been averaging 30-point wins in its first three contests, but on Friday night in front of the largest crowd to witness a Lady Buccaneer game, the Commodores had to survive every punch ETSU threw at them. However, when it was all said and done, the 12th ranked Vanderbilt Commodores escaped with the 66-55 non-conference victory in front of 3,459 raucous fans inside Memorial Center.


For the third straight contest a Lady Buccaneer player posted a 20-point game, as junior Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) finished with a game-high 21 points. In addition, Evans notched her 17th career double-double (second this season) after grabbing 11 rebounds. Vanderbilt (4-0) was led by Merideth Marsh's 16 points and Hannah Tuomi's 13-point, 11-rebound effort.


ETSU (0-3) showed unbelievable heart and character as they battled the SEC favorite toe-to-toe for nearly all 40 minutes tonight. The Lady Buccaneer defense made a Vanderbilt team - who have only been averaging 12 turnovers a game - to turn the ball over 23 times. To go with the hard-nose defense, sophomore point guard Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) forced five steals, while junior post Latisha Belcher (Martinsville, Va.) came through with four. Davis also finished the night with eight points, five rebounds and four assists, while Belcher netted 10 points and grabbed three boards.


"It would have been easy for us to lie down against the 12th ranked team in the country, but we are fighters and competitors," commented Kemp.  "I was really pleased with our effort, because they have beaten their opponents by over 30 points and we can take a lot of positives away from this game."


After trailing by 13 to start the second half, ETSU came out of the break with a lot of intensity and attacked the Commodores. A Christina Wirth free throw with 17:11 remaining in the game gave Vandy its largest lead of the night, 41-25, but the Lady Buccaneers never back down from there. Over the next eight minutes ETSU used a 22-9 spurt to cut the lead to three, 50-47, when Davis found TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) open for an easy layup. However, on Vanderbilt's next trip down the floor they took advantage of two offensive rebounds and Wirth's second trey of the night gave the Commodores a little breathing room by pushing their lead back to six.


The game remained tight from there as the Commodores were only able to extend their lead to as many as seven in the next five and half minutes, but a Wirth three-pointer pushed Vanderbilt's lead back to double digits, 65-55, with 2:48 left on the clock. ETSU had its chances down the stretch but missed shots and a couple questionable fouls, shot the Lady Bucs in the foot.


ETSU was held to a 37.3 shooting percentage (19-51) on the evening, while Vanderbilt was slightly better at 40 percent (24-60). The Commodores used their 13 offensive rebounds to good use, as they turned them into 14 second chance points and outrebounded the Lady Bucs, 40-31. Both teams battled in the paint as they combined to score 58 of the 121 points down low - Vandy held the upper edge - 32 to 26.   


In the first half, the Lady Bucs hung tough with the SEC power for the first 15 minutes, thanks to the hot hand of Evans. The Griffin, Ga. native drained 10 of ETSU's first 15 points and the Lady Buccaneers held a one-point advantage with 12:11 remaining in the half.


From there, the Lady Bucs continued to build on their lead when jumpers by Belcher and Davis extended the ETSU margin to five, 19-14, at the 11:03 mark. However, pressure defense by the Commodores and cold shooting hurt ETSU's chances to extend its lead. Vanderbilt used the remaining 10 minutes of the frame to post a 22-4 run, and went into the locker room up 13, 36-23. During the run, the Lady Bucs were held to only two field goals in the remaining 11:03 and also committed 11 of their 17 first half turnovers in that span.


ETSU shot 37 percent (10-27) in the opening 20 minutes, compared to Vanderbilt's 43.3 clip (13-30). Both teams had trouble holding onto the ball - combining to turn the ball over 28 times. Evans led all scorers with 12, and Tuomi led the Commodores with nine.


Friday night proved to be a special evening for the Lady Buccaneers and ETSU Athletics, as the "Pack the House" event was very successful. Entering the night the previous record to witness a Lady Buccaneer game was 1,236 (set last season), but ETSU smashed the record by 2,223 fans. Meanwhile, ETSU and the Lady Bucs look to build off this special promotion and continue to create awareness for women's basketball in the Tri-Cities area.


"The fans were great tonight," commented Kemp. "The team really fed off their energy and hopefully they continue to come out and support us the rest of the season."


The Lady Bucs return to action on Wednesday night when they host former SoCon rival Appalachian State. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Fans who bring two or more canned food items receive $1 admission to the game. Following the game all the food items that were raised tonight and on Wednesday will be donated to the South Side Mission of Johnson City.


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