Georgia Southern knocks off Lady Buccaneers, 75-71

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- On Monday night, the ball dropped at Times Square in New York to signal the start of a new year.
   But for the East Tennessee State Lady Buccaneers, the balls needed to drop a few hours earlier.
   The Lady Bucs shot a dismal 31 percent in the second half against Georgia Southern, as they were handed a 75-71 loss to the Eagles in Memorial Center.
   ETSU only made nine shots from the field in the second half, but still had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.
   "It's a sign of a good team to play as poorly as I felt like we played, and still have an opportunity to win it down the stretch against the second place preseason pick in the conference and defending champs," ETSU head coach Karen Kemp said. "I felt like the girls worked extremely hard to put themselves in a position to win it down the stretch."
   The Lady Bucs were coming off a huge win against Southern Conference favorite Chattanooga on Saturday, and Kemp thought there might have been a letdown following the emotional victory.
   "I was worried all day today because sometimes after a big win you come out flat," Kemp said. "And that's definitely what we did. The last couple of years we haven't had a whole lot of success, and we have to learn how to be good winners, but then it's over with. I feel like we're going to win some big games, but we've got to know how to enjoy it for the moment, and then it's time to refocus and get ready for the next opponent."
   The Lady Bucs were looking to tie the basketball game up with about 20 seconds to go, as ETSU was down 74-71 and had possession. But the Lady Eagles did a good job of protecting the Bucs from getting off the three-point shot, as Samantha Copeland was forced to drive down the lane for the two only to have the ball stolen by Tiffany Lanier.
   Lanier was then sent to the foul line, and made one of two free-throws to ice the game for Georgia Southern.
   "They did a tremendous job of covering up the shooters," Kemp said. "We'll have to sit down and work on some different things to do to get our shooters some shots when we're against that type of pressure."
   Kemp admitted that the play didn't go as planned.
   "In the timeout we talked about hitting the three," Kemp said. "It was set up to get Ashley (Reed) the three. But this is going to be a learning experience for this team."
   A player that Coach Kemp will probably be having nightmares about for the next several days is Georgia Southern's Alie Rousseau. She hit seven out of eight treys en route to scoring 27 points.
   The final three she hit gave Georgia Southern a 70-61 lead with 6:46 left, leaving the Lady Bucs to play catch-up.
   "We knew she was the only three-point shooter they had," Kemp said. "That's all we talked about the last couple of days. We knew we had to cover her up, and we did a poor job of doing that."
   The game was close throughout, as Georgia Southern never had more than a nine-point lead. ETSU led 40-39 at the break, but never led again after the first five minutes of the second half.
   A couple of bright spots for the Lady Bucs on Monday were post players Megan Jackson and Lauren Trantham. Jackson had 14 points and seven rebounds, while Trantham netted 12 points and also had seven boards.
   "Lauren is such a fierce competitor," Kemp said. "She's going to do big things throughout her career here. And Megan wants to go out successful here, so she's going to work hard all the time on the floor so that we can be successful.
   Reed scored 11 points, and Erin Thurman had eight for ETSU.
   One reason the Lady Bucs managed to stay in the game was because of their ability to get to the foul line. ETSU shot 24 times from the charity stripe, and made 17. Georgia Southern only hit on nine of its 16 attempts from the free-throw line.
   The Lady Bucs will attempt to get back into the win column Saturday against Appalachian State. Kemp is hoping that her players will keep their heads up until then.
   "We need to regroup and keep our confidence," Kemp said. "That's what we've got to do."
   ETSU falls to 7-5 overall, and 2-1 in SoCon play. Georgia Southern improves to 5-6 overall, and is also 2-1 in the league.