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ETSU women ready to open season with Cincinnati

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 9, 2017 at 5:47 PM

The East Tennessee State University women’s basketball team is tired of playing against the Blue and Gold.

It’s time to get after someone in red and black.

The Bucs open the 2017-18 season Friday night by hosting Cincinnati at Brooks Gym.

For ETSU coach Brittney Ezell and her team, the matchup of teams who both finished 16-14 last season couldn’t come at a better time.

“The kids are ready to play someone in a different uniform,” said Ezell, who has gone 62-61 in five seasons as head coach. “We’ve had a good offseason of conditioning and we’re ready to go. I was really pleased with our exhibition and closed-door scrimmage so I’m glad to see us take the bright lights. It’s a big opponent coming into Johnson City and the kids are excited.”

It’s certainly the case with senior point guard Tianna Tarter, a unanimous first-team All-Southern Conference selection a year ago after leading the league with 19.2 points per game. Tarter sees the Lady Bearcats, who are led by 6-foot senior forward Shanice Johnson, a former junior college All-American, as a tough opponent.

“I think it’s going to be a fast-paced game,” Tarter said. “Their posts are pretty good and you have a player who was No. 1 in scoring in junior college. It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be tough.”

But, ETSU is accustomed to opening the season against schools from larger conferences. The Bucs opened last season with a 68-59 victory over Butler in the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

“Last year we opened with Butler and had a really big road win,” she said. “We’re going to try to duplicate that success. But, that’s why we schedule like we do. It gets their attention, keeps them engaged and the fans excited about what’s coming next. Hopefully, the area will come out and see Cincinnati. It’s their first time in Johnson City.”

It’s also a first time to see the Bucs starting lineup of Tarter and freshman Erica Haynes-Overton in the backcourt, Malloree Schurr and Raven Dean as forwards and junior college transfer Britney Snowden in the middle.

Still, the Lady Bearcats have a size advantage with 10 players on the roster listed as 5-foot-10 or taller. But, another player, 5-foot-6 senior guard Ana Owens, also has Ezell’s attention. Owens has plenty of experience running the point, starting all 91 games of her collegiate career. Normally one who distributes the ball, she can put up big offensive numbers when needed.

“They’ve got a point guard who can score in a bunch of different ways and a wing player who led the nation in scoring as a junior college All-American,” Ezell said. “They have really good size in the post. They run well, have discipline. I don’t know if there’s anything I don’t like about them. After watching their exhibition game, we will have our work cut out for us. But, I feel it’s a task we can handle.”

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