Home Sweet Dome, finally.
Led by Tiana Burley’s double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds, the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team defeated Jacksonville 74-57 on Monday night inside the MSHA Athletics Center. It was their first home win in the Mini-Dome since a Nov. 30 victory over Memphis.
“It’s been a while,” ETSU head coach Karen Kemp said. “But I know this team and they’re really coming together. This is where we really need to start playing well. They’re finally getting it together and playing as a team. Tiana didn’t start for us, but she had 22 points and 11 rebounds in only 20 minutes. Not just one player, that’s what this team is capable of doing.”
Coming out of the gates with plenty of energy and keeping that intensity throughout the contest, the Lady Bucs never trailed to improve to 5-11 on the season and 3-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“I felt this team was ready to turn the corner, and I thought we were really close those last couple of games,” Kemp said. “Tonight, we got the lead and never let up. That’s what I preach to them. You get somebody down and you have to keep them down.”
ETSU did just that, scoring the first seven points of the game and leading 43-25 at the half. The Lady Bucs dominated with a 30-8 advantage in the paint, and they held Jacksonville to 25 percent from the field. In addition, they outscored the Lady Dolphins 15-2 off the bench.
For the game, they had advantages of 50-18 in the paint and 26-7 on second-chance points.
No one played a bigger role than Burley, who had made 10 of 15 shots from the field and grabbed eight offensive rebounds. The 6-foot-3, redshirt sophomore was so effective in her 20 minutes on the floor that she drew double-teams by the Lady Dolphins’ defense in the second half.
“I had been frustrated recently, not getting the ball and I’m the biggest person in the league,” Burley said. “But I wasn’t playing the game, the way I’m capable of playing the game. I talked to coach Kemp about living up to my potential. I’m not there yet, but I felt like I took a big step tonight. I’ve got a lot of work to do and I’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
Serena Clark and Destiny Mitchell hit double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. It was particularly key to get Mitchell off to a strong start after she had just six field-goal attempts in a 62-56 loss to North Florida on Saturday.
Mitchell had six attempts in the first half alone and took nine shots for the game.
Tracie Sneed led Jacksonville (7-13, 3-6) with 14 points and Stephanie Edwards ended with 10 points.
However, ETSU maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half.
Coach Kemp was glad to finally see smiling faces in the locker room, instead of her players with their heads hung down.
“To walk in the locker room, to see everybody smiling, it was very refreshing,” Kemp said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever looked down at a final stat sheet and saw where a team had 50 points in the paint. It was a lot of effort. JU is extremely athletic, but we felt if we crashed the boards, we could get some offensive rebounds and easy buckets on the inside. The effort was there on both ends of the floor.”
The Lady Bucs will host Lipscomb on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The game is the first half of a men’s and women’s doubleheader.