The East Tennessee State women’s basketball team will still be short-handed on its trip to Florida this week.
Starting forwards Destiny Mitchell and Tosha Austin missed Monday night’s 77-76 heartbreaking loss to Northern Kentucky, and coach Karen Kemp says the two won’t be available when the team plays at Stetson and league-leading Florida Gulf Coast.
“We don’t know as of yet what the final word is,” Kemp said. “Hopefully we’ll know and get them back in a week or so.”
Mitchell hurt her knee in Saturday’s game against Lipscomb. Austin reportedly suffered a concussion.
Two seasons ago, Mitchell missed the team’s final six games after suffering a dislocated left kneecap and some ligament damage. This time, it’s her right knee, although Kemp remains hopeful it’s not a serious injury.
“It’s more of a hyperextension,” Kemp said. “It’s not serious, so we hope, but it’s serious enough that she can’t play for us right now.”
Mitchell, who missed ETSU’s loss at LSU earlier this season with a concussion, ranks eighth in the Atlantic Sun Conference in scoring at 12.6 points per game and second in rebounding at 8.8. Austin doesn’t play many minutes, but had started 13 of the first 17 games.
The Lady Bucs head to Florida 6-12 overall and in seventh place in the A-Sun at 4-7. They’re coming off probably their most disheartening loss of the season.
ETSU led almost the entire way until Melody Doss scored with three seconds left after a crucial Lady Bucs’ turnover to give Northern Kentucky the winning points.
Kemp said her team was trying to win one for the injured starters.
“This group really, really wanted to do it for them,” she said. “I really wanted to do it for them. ... Now let’s regroup for the trip down to Florida because we’re probably not gonna have those two ladies with us on the floor.”
One bright spot for the Lady Bucs was the play of Tiana Burley. The 6-foot-3 sophomore had 20 points and 11 rebounds against Northern Kentucky, making 7 of 11 shots.
Burley seemed to wear down after outscoring the Norse 16-12 in the first nine minutes, and placed much of the blame for the loss on herself in the postgame news conference. But she was a bit hard on herself. ETSU wouldn’t have been in position to win without her production.
Hunter Harris is back with the men’s basketball team after missing its last game to be with his ailing father.
“We were all certainly glad he got to go home and spend some time with his dad,” coach Murry Bartow said. “He’s back and he had a good practice yesterday. He’ll be on the trip with us.”
The 6-foot-7 junior from Nashville is averaging 7.6 points a game. He recently had a breakout game with 25 points against North Florida, but followed that with three and two in his next two games.
Harris was in Nashville to visit his father, who was in intensive care, while the Bucs rallied to beat Lipscomb 90-88 in overtime.
ETSU is 7-17 and in seventh place in the A-Sun at 5-6. Florida Gulf Coast leads the league at 8-3, followed by Mercer at 7-3.
Jarvis Jones’ spectacular performance against Lipscomb earned him his first A-Sun player-of the-week award. The senior guard from Memphis scored a career-high 36 points, the most by any A-Sun player this season, and hit crucial 3-pointers down the stretch.
He also had 23 points in a loss to Northern Kentucky and his 16.3 average leads the team.
It was the Bucs’ first player-of-the-week award this season.
The ETSU softball team opens the season Friday in a tournament at Auburn, taking on the host team at 4 p.m. followed by a game against Kent State.
The Bucs are also scheduled to face Austin Peay and Army on Saturday. Then it’s on to Charleston for five games before returning to Johnson City for their home opener on Feb. 23 against Siena.
The Bucs finished last in the A-Sun last year at 1-17. They were 11-38 overall. Fourteen members of this year’s 21-player roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
“We definitely are a young team, but I like it because the girls have brought new things to the table and a new atmosphere,” third-year coach Brad Irwin said. “We obviously have not had the success we would have liked over the last few years, but that is part of the change of culture we are going through. This is a very talented group and we are looking for big things out of them.”
Sophomore first baseman Casey Horner is back after leading the team in hitting (.316), home runs (seven) and RBIs (24). Senior outfielder Tara Hartnett hit .315 last year.
ETSU’s top pitcher, junior Katie Wolf, is also back after going 5-19 with a 3.68 ERA a year ago.
Sophomore Whitney Leon is back as well. She was 4-1 with a 5.17 ERA last year.
Freshman Samantha Harrell is expected to spend a lot of time in the pitching circle. She was the Florida high school pitcher of the year last season after finishing her prep career with 709 strikeouts and a .093 ERA.
“Our game revolves around pitching and it is one of the areas where we just have not had the results we have needed in the past,” Irwin said. “Having a large pitching staff like we have this year, with four newcomers, we are really looking to enhance those performances. For us to be successful, the pitching really has to step up and perform.”