Lady Bucs lower the boom on Tusculum

By Allen LaMountain

   JOHNSON CITY -- Tusculum College head coach Suzanne McBride must have felt like she was watching a baking contest with the number of turnovers her Lady Pioneers produced on Thursday night.
   The East Tennessee State Lady Buccaneers stormed back from an early 12-7 deficit with a 16-0 run in the middle of the first half, and thanks to 27 Lady Pioneer turnovers glided to an 85-59 win over Tusculum (3-2).
   Led in the first half by eight points each from junior post Lauren Trantham and senior guard Kiya Verdell, the Lady Bucs (2-5) shook off some early malaise and put forth their most complete effort of the season.
   "In the first half I was not pleased with the effort," said Lady Bucs head coach Karen Kemp. "I almost felt like we were in unfamiliar territory playing at home for the first time. Maybe that had something to do with it. We came out much better in the second half."
   Tusculum opened the contest like they intended to play home-opening spoilers by taking a 12-7 advantage in the first four minutes of play, but a Lady Bucs timeout and a substitution by Kemp sparked ETSU.
   Kemp inserted junior forward Jessica Lonon into the lineup and she provided immediate dividends by blocking a couple of shots inside the paint and sparking the Lady Bucs defensively.
   "I just do what coach wants me to do," said Lonon when asked if she felt like she had given the team a lift. "I always try to be ready to go. I feel like I was a lot stronger than the other girls out there and coach likes to use me for defense."
   Trantham led a Bucs scoring parade that included five players in double figures and Trantham completed a double-double night with 13 boards. Trantham finished with 14 points while Misty Copas had 13, Adrienne Walker 12 and Lonon who had 11 points and five blocked shots.
   "It was nice to get a game at home," said Trantham. "The fans here are great. I don't think we have played as well as we can, but in the second half we were much better."
   The Lady Bucs took a 41-29 lead into the intermission and opened the second half with a 10-0 run to make it a 51-29 contest and from there the Lady Bucs made sure they would half their three-game slide.
   "We turned the ball over way too many times," said McBride. "We needed to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. We didn't play our style of ball, ETSU got us into an up and down game, but give them credit they have got a lot of good athletes. Our team played hard until the horn, but ETSU made us play their game tonight."
   Guard Julie Maples led all scorers with 22 points and teammate Kari Karns totaled 10 points and Kandace Combs finished with nine points.
   For the Lady Bucs the play of freshman guard Walker was impressive as it was frustrating to coach Kemp as in addition to scoring a dozen points, and running the Bucs offense, Walker also turned the ball over 10 times.
   "Typical freshman," joked Kemp. "She has the potential to be an outstanding point guard. You don't want to take away her aggressiveness, but she has to play under control and take care of the ball."
   The Lady Bucs shot 45.5 percent from the floor (35-of-77) and held the Lady Pioneers to just 18-of-60 from the floor (30 percent) and held a 51-42 edge off the glass. ETSU next plays at home on December 18 against UNC-Asheville.