Cold shooting night dooms ETSU women

Photo by Kristen Luther
ETSU’s Tiffani Mayes tallied a game-high 20 points.
  JOHNSON CITY--The first half should've been a blowout; second-shot attempts should've won them the game.
  The East Tennessee State Lady Buccaneers played solid defense and came away with several offensive boards in the first half, but could never put away the Furman Lady Paladins due to a poor 26 percent effort from the field.
  After trailing the majority of the game, Furman stepped up their inside presence in the final six minutes, withholding the Lady Bucs from a field goal in a 64-56 comeback win between two of the preseason SoCon favorites Monday at the Memorial Center.
  "I think our biggest let down when we were up five or six points was going to the free throw line and missing opportunities that would've put us up by double digits," said ETSU coach Karen Kemp. "We've got to be able to hit easy buckets and it's difficult top put away a team as talented as they are."
  The Lady Bucs were 19-of-72 from the field in the game. Many of those shots were in-and-out.
  Perhaps the biggest blow to ETSU down the stretch was the loss of Candice Gibson, who tied a career high with 11 rebounds, and had three blocks and two big steals before left leg cramps forced her out of the game early in the second half.
  "That hurt us on the boards," Kemp said. "She was doing a good job defensively, and once she got hurt, we weren't the same."
  Furman took advantage of that rallying from 10 down to tie the game and eventually take over the boards and prevent second attempts from ETSU in the final four minutes of the game.
  The Lady Paladins wound up out-rebounding State 47-45 due to the absence of Gibson and the focus on the Lady Bucs' leading scorer Tiffani Mayes. Mayes wound up with 20 points and 13 boards, but was doubled down much of the second half.
  ETSU had 20 offensive boards to Furman's nine, mostly due to first-half play.
  The Lady Bucs shot 11-of-36 in that first half, mostly due to missing their second shot attempts in key possessions, which allowed Furman to close the gap to three.
  "I think it's the quality of our team that allows us to never quit," said third-year Furman coach Sam Dixon. "We started hitting lay ups and made our free throws. We had great contribution from all of our players tonight and rebounding was the big key."
  It didn't help the Lady Paladins that they were without leading scorer Jen Nadalin, who scored 30 points in their previous two games.
  "We had to ask players to do their jobs and contribute in her place," the coach said.
  Aside from Mayes' performance, B.J. Banjo tallied 11 points for the Lady Bucs. Banjo was a strong presence defensively, but missed her final seven shots from the field.
  "We let an opportunity slip by," said Banjo, who also had eight boards, seven assists and three steals. "We missed a couple of one-and-one's down the stretch, and if we would've made would've been a different outcome. This game is behind us. We'll learn from our mistakes and get them back later in the year."
  Mivvi Stickland led Furman on the boards with 12 in the game, a second half spurt from Chrissy Phelps and a first half of solid perimeter shooting from Laney Harris gave them 15 points apiece.
  Tommi Parris added 13 for the Lady Paladins.
  Other bright spots for the Lady Bucs were the defensive play of freshman Anna Marie Ricciardi and sophomore guard Brooke Wilhoit.
  The Lady Bucs only committed 21 turnovers to Furman's 30, but the big picture was the overall field goal shooting (26.4 percent to the Lady Paladins' 40.4).
  "I was pleased with our effort defensively," Kemp added. "I thought we did a nice job, but we couldn't finish the game. That's two games in a row we have played well defensively. We would've been sitting pretty (in conference play) with this home win."
  It was ETSU's first conference loss of the season, bringing their overall mark to 4-5, while Furman improves its mark to 7-1 overall, with an unblemished 3-0 conference mark going into Thursday's game with Chattanooga.
  The Lady Bucs next host Georgia Southern next Tuesday before entertaining Mississippi State for a big home battle on Dec. 30.