ETSU women’s basketball welcomes seventh Power 5 opponent in as many seasons
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 30, 2022) – There is a lot of buzz surrounding the ETSU women’s basketball program recently following a historic 6-2 start to the season. That start will be put to the test on Thursday in Brooks Gym, as the Bucs host Vanderbilt for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Thursday’s game will be Heroes Day, where all first responders with valid ID will receive free admission. The first 100 fans at Thursday’s game will receive an ETSU T-Shirt with the special edition “Freedom E” logo. The presenting game sponsor is The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
MATCHUP INFO AND LINKS
Thursday, Dec. 1 – ETSU vs. Vanderbilt – 7:00 p.m. – Brooks Gym – Johnson City, Tenn.
Radio / ESPN+ / Live Stats / Tickets
WATCH OR LISTEN
Radio Broadcast: WXSM-AM 640 | 104.9 NASH ICON
Radio Announcer: Keith Brake
TV Broadcast: ESPN+
TV Announcers: “Voice of the Bucs” Jay Sandos and Bruce Tranbarger
ABOUT THE BUCS
- ETSU is off to its best start since 1996 with a 6-2 overall record. Since women’s basketball became an NCAA championship sport in 1981, ETSU has had just three seasons with six wins or more in the first eight games. The last 6-2 start came in the 1996-97 season.
- The Bucs are fresh off a big weekend at the UNLV Thanksgiving MTE in Las Vegas, winning the consolation bracket with two wins in three games over three days. After falling to George Washington, ETSU went on to defeat UAlbany and UC San Diego back-to-back.
- For her performance in Vegas, sophomore Nevaeh Brown (Charlotte, N.C.) was named to the UNLV Thanksgiving MTE All-Tournament team. She averaged 13.3 points per game and had double-digit scoring in all three contests for 40 points total. Brown is now averaging 10.6 PPG off the bench this season.
- ETSU has won six of the last seven games after its visit to top-ranked defending champion South Carolina to open the season.
- The 6-2 record for ETSU is no novelty, as the Bucs have only played NCAA Division I competition so far this regular season. The Bucs own wins over mid-major opponents St. Bonaventure, Lafayette, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, UAlbany and UC San Diego. The Bucs are the only SoCon team yet to play a non-D1 opponent, but they still sit atop the conference standings.
- Vanderbilt will be the seventh Power 5 opponent to visit ETSU women’s basketball in as many seasons. The last home Power 5 win for ETSU came against Wake Forest in Brooks Gym on Dec. 5, 2019.
- Graduate guard Jiselle Thomas (Norwalk, Ohio) leads the Bucs with 15.6 points per game. She scored her 1,000th career point in the season opener against No. 1 South Carolina and ranks among the top five scorers in the SoCon this season.
- Transitioning from guard to post, graduate Jayla Ruffus-Milner (North Hills, Calif.) leads the team with 7.1 rebounds per game to rank fourth in the SoCon.
- Sophomore Kendall Folley (Lebanon, Ohio) has comfortably filled the role of starting point guard for ETSU this season, as the Oakland transfer has 6.9 PPG to rank third on the team.
- Sophomore Courtney Moore (Gainesville, Fla.) was a key factor in the team’s last win over UC San Diego, hitting three triples for nine fourth quarter points to catapult ETSU to a nine-point win. She finished the game with 11 points and now averages 4.8 PPG.
- Post player Jakhyia Davis (Knoxville, Tenn.) joins Moore as the only three-year members of the program this season. Davis is a sparkplug off the bench with a steady 5.5 PPG and 5.4 RPG.
- ETSU has rolled with the same starting lineup for the last seven games, with Folley, Moore, Thomas and Ruffus-Milner joining true freshman Journee McDaniel (New Bern, N.C.). McDaniel is averaging 4.8 PPG and 6.1 RPG to rank among the league leaders in the latter.
- The Blue and Gold are led by first year Coach Brenda Mock Brown, who took over in August. Despite a late arrival to campus, Mock has guided the Bucs to a successful 6-2 record. The six wins already match last season’s win total.
- Prior to ETSU, Coach Mock spent eight seasons at UNC Asheville from 2012-20. Mock took the Bulldogs from a two-win team her first season into a back-to-back conference championship winner by her fourth and fifth seasons. She has already tripled that UNCA first season win total at ETSU.
- This season, ETSU will seek its first winning campaign and postseason appearance since 2018, where the team finished 20-13 overall, 11-3 in the SoCon and with an appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). ETSU has made three NCAA tournament appearances all-time (2008, 2009, 2010) and four WNIT appearances (1995, 2006, 2014, 2018).
ABOUT THE COMMODORES
- Vanderbilt enters Thursday’s game with a 6-3 record. Following a 5-0 start to the year, Vandy endured a three-game losing streak with losses to Saint Joseph’s, No. 13 NC State and Northern Iowa. The Black & Gold got off the schneid on Tuesday with a win over USC Upstate at home.
- Last season, Vanderbilt finished with a 16-19 record with a 12-5 record at home, a 3-3 neutral site record and just one win on the road. Vandy made it past the first round of the SEC tournament with an 85-69 win over Texas A&M and made it to the third round of the WNIT. Both tournament runs came down to the buzzer in one-possession losses.
- Vandy is led by second year head coach Shea Ralph — a well-known name in the basketball community following seven national championships as a player or coach while at UConn under Coach Geno Auriemma. Ralph owns an even 22-22 record in two seasons as a head coach.
- Coming into this week, the Commodores were among the SEC leaders in field goal percentage (6th, 45.0%) and free throw shooting (4th, 72.3%) while ranking second in the league with 56 made three-pointers.
- Ciaja Harbison is making an early case for SEC Player of the Year contention as she is averaging 18.5 PPG and 5.5 assists per game to rank third and second in the conference, respectively. Harbison also entered the week second in the nation with 48 free throws made.
- Marnelle Garraud is the second-leading scorer with 11.3 PPG while entering the week leading the SEC in made three-pointers (19) and ranking third in the SEC in three-point percentage (38.0 percent). Following the USC Upstate win, she’s now at 23 makes and 41.0 percent behind the arc.
- Sacha Washington makes a dynamic trio alongside Garraud and Harbison, as Washington is also averaging double-digit points at 10.6 PPG. Washington is also the sixth-leading rebounder in the SEC with 64 total.
SERIES HISTORY VS. VANDERBILT
- Thursday will be the 10th all-time meeting between Vanderbilt and ETSU.
- The Bucs won the first two meetings in 1980 and 1981, but the Commodores have won the last seven.
- The last meeting came in 2020, as the Bucs traveled to Nashville and Vandy won 81-61. Courtney Moore and Jakhyia Davis were the only two current Bucs on that team, combining for 15 points. Davis also lead the team with eight rebounds.
- Vanderbilt is the last SEC team to visit Brooks Gym, doing so on December 8, 2016. The Commodores held off the Bucs for an 80-72 win.
- Vanderbilt will mark the seventh Power 5 opponent in as many seasons to visit ETSU. Two of those games were played outside of Brooks Gym — both against the Tennessee Lady Vols. Tennessee last visited ETSU inside Freedom Hall in 2019, edging the Bucs by a 72-68 final. ETSU also hosted UT inside the Mini Dome in front of over 6,000 fans in 2016.
For more information on Buccaneer women’s hoops, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s basketball tab.