Serena Clark had her fourth straight double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) in East Tennessee State's home win against Alabama A&M on Saturday. (Dave Boyd / Johnson City Press)
East Tennessee State women’s basketball coach Brittney Ezell said she didn’t have to tell Serena Clark to take over Friday night’s game against Alabama A&M. The junior forward was already doing it. Clark had 21 points and 11 rebounds Friday night as the Bucs showed no Thanksgiving hangover in an 82-65 victory over the visiting Bulldogs at Brooks Gym.
“Serena made that decision on her own,” Ezell said. “I think Serena’s quite capable of taking over a ballgame. If Serena saw herself through my eyes, she would play like that every night.”
It was the first home victory for ETSU (2-3), and it came in front of a crowd of 478.
“I think it’s really good because it’ll make the fans keep coming to our games,” Clark said. “It’s good to get a win in front of our fans. We had a lot of family here because of Thanksgiving.”
The Bucs also got 15 points and six assists from Brianna McQueen and 12 points from freshman Shamauria Bridges, who played the best game of her young career.
“I know she was excited,” Ezell said of Bridges. “Her family came up from Miami. It’s always nice when kids perform well in front of their families. She’d been in a little bit of a shooting slump, but she played with some confidence, so that’s nice.”
Clark made 8 of her 10 shots from the field and 5 of 7 from the free throw line. She’s posted a double-double in each of her last four games.
“Serena has to develop some confidence,” Ezell said. “We’re asking players who used to be role players to take over and be stars, and she’s starting to embrace it.”
Clark’s 11 rebounds helped ETSU enjoy a 43-29 advantage on the boards.
Bridges, who went 2 for 3 on 3-point shots, scored five points in a span of 25 seconds in the first half to stretch ETSU’s 23-20 lead to 28-20.
Clark scored on a 3-point play with 1:27 left in the first half, and it was significant for two reasons. It gave the Lady Bucs a 16-point lead at 41-25 and it sent Alabama A&M center Jessica Lowery to the bench with four fouls.
That was a common theme, as the two teams combined for 26 fouls in the first half. The Bulldogs were hit especially hard, being called for 18 in the first half with six players with at least two.
The Bucs’ 43-27 halftime lead was acquired, largely, at the free throw line, where they went 17-22 over the first 20 minutes.
Amazingly, in a game that finished with 43 fouls, nobody fouled out. Each team shot 28 free throws. ETSU made 22, Alabama A&M made 23.
Alabama A&M, coached by former Tennessee Lady Vol Semeka Randall, fell to 0-5. Brittney Strickland led the Bulldogs with 22 points. Jasmine Sanders added 14.
ETSU managed a relatively easy victory without much much production from leading scorer Cara Bowling, who finished with eight points, half of her average, as she spent much of the night on the bench in foul trouble.
The Bucs won’t be home for a while. They begin a three-game road swing at Western Carolina on Sunday. Then come games at Vanderbilt on Tuesday and Kentucky on Dec. 15. The next home game is Dec. 18 when Indiana State comes to town.