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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Dec. 6, 2011) – The ETSU women’s basketball team had the Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite on the ropes, but the Lady Bucs let one slip away inside JQH Arena on Tuesday night.
Playing in front of family and less than five hours away from home, red-shirt senior guard Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) netted a team-high 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset, as the Missouri State Lady Bears came out of hibernation down the stretch to knock off ETSU, 81-70, in non-conference play.
Along with Gordon, three other Lady Buccaneer players scored in double figures – including a career-high 12-point effort by freshman post Amy Duke (Hendersonville, Tenn.). Sophomore Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.) was one rebound shy of recording her first double-double of the season after posting 10 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Rounding the scoring attack out was a 10-point performance by sophomore guard Shawn Randall (Orlando, Fla.) off the bench.
In a game that had seven ties and five lead changes, the Lady Bucs saw their record drop to 0-9, while Missouri State – who was playing for the first time since its 23-point win over Arkansas Little-Rock on Nov. 29 – improved to 4-2 on the year.
For the game, the Lady Bucs matched their season-high by shooting 41.1 percent from the field, while also recording a season-best 30 made field goals (73 attempts). ETSU did an excellent job getting into the passing lanes as the Lady Bucs forced Missouri State into 17 turnovers, resulting in 27 points on the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Lady Bears shot 46 percent from the floor (29-63) and out-rebounded the Lady Bucs by five, 41 to 36.
The Lady Bucs showed a lot of fight and heart despite playing their fourth game in nine days.
Trailing by three after Iesha Robinson’s (Martinsburg, W. Va.) jumper made it a 69-66 game with 3:06 to play, Missouri State stepped up and posted a 12-4 run down the stretch to solidify the win.
Missouri State looked to have stolen all the momentum after closing out the final five minutes of the first half on a 17-4 run to take a 39-34 lead into the locker room, following Casey Garrison’s jumper at the buzzer.
However, Gordon started the second half just like she did the first by nailing a 3-pointer to pull the Lady Bucs within two.
The Lady Bucs stayed toe-to-toe with Missouri State and eventually regained the lead when Robinson connected on a jumper and then found Duke open underneath for a lay-up – putting ETSU up 53-50 with 12:22 left in the game.
Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last as the Lady Bears recorded a 17-6 run over the next five minutes, twenty seconds to recapture a 67-59 advantage, but Gordon stepped up with another three-pointer at the 6:05 mark to pull the Lady Bucs within five.
Gordon’s three reenergized the Blue and Gold as ETSU didn’t back down despite playing over 765 miles away from home and only having about 25 supporters out of the 2,264 total in attendance.
Robinson was able to get her team within one possession at the 3:06 mark, but ETSU just couldn’t get the stop they needed down the stretch. Lacey Boshe drained a jumper on the next trip down and the Lady Bears made all six of their free throws in the closing minutes to survive the scare.
The week long layoff for Missouri State showed in the opening 15 minutes of the game, but with the Lady Bucs holding an eight-point lead, the Lady Bears mounted the 17-4 run to close out the half and took the five-point advantage into the break.
Gordon opened the game up with a three-pointer from the top of the arc, but the Lady Bears scored ten unanswered over the next three minutes, two seconds to take a 10-3 lead with 15:33 left in the first half. The Lady Bucs responded with an 11-4 run to even things up at 14 after Robinson nailed a three and laid one in on a fast-break at the 11:10 mark.
From there, the half saw three more ties, but Randall came off the bench to fuel a 12-4 run and put ETSU ahead, 30-22, forcing the Lady Bears to burn a 30-second timeout after the sophomore guard swished her third three-pointer of the half with 5:08 showing on the clock. Randall registered 10 of the 12 points, starting with a four-point-play to begin the surge.
However, the Blue and Gold went cold as Missouri State held the Lady Bucs to one field goal in the final five-plus minutes to regain momentum at the end of the half.
Three-point shooting and defense was the recipe for the Lady Bucs’ success in the opening 20 minutes, as ETSU went 5-of-11 from beyond the arc and scored 17 points off 13 Missouri State turnovers. The Lady Bears held the advantage in the paint, outscoring ETSU by eight, 18 to 10, and made five more free throws than the Blue and Gold. Missouri State went 8-of-9 from the charity stripe, while the Lady Bucs capitalized on their three trips to the stripe.
Those three free throws were all the Lady Bucs ended with after 40 minutes of play, while Missouri State went to the line 12 more times in the second half to finish 18-of-21 for the contest.
Garrison, the MVC preseason player of the year and Naismith Watch List selection, scored a game-high 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Boshe also stepped up by adding 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Lady Bucs wrap up their five-game road swing on Sunday afternoon when ETSU travels to Chapel Hill to face the 17th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Tip is set for 2 p.m. inside Carmichael Arena.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.