Lady Bucs' Tiana Burley looks for an opening as Indiana State's Marina Laramie attempts to block during action in the Dome Wednesday night. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
The East Tennessee State women’s basketball team didn’t need any “magic” to beat Larry Bird’s alma mater Wednesday night.
A balanced attack was enough to lift the Lady Bucs’ to a 75-67 win over Indiana State at the MSHA Center.
Sharing the basketball to the tune of 21 assists, five players reached double figures for the Lady Bucs (3-6).
“I absolutely loved the unselfish nature of our group,” ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. “They made the extra pass and Brianna McQueen made some great high-low passes today. The passes are only as good as the receivers can catch. I thought our kids did a nice job of being alert and understanding when the defense is in a scramble situation, you have opportunities to make easy baskets. It really was an unselfish effort by our kids today and they deserve all the credit.”
Maria Bond, a 5-foot-10 junior forward, was the recipient of many of those inside passes. She finished 9-of-13 from the floor and paced ETSU with 18 points.
“Without my teammates and without the assists we had, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Bond said about getting so many close-range attempts. “My team came to play and I went out there with the emotion of the game..... It was just a good feeling. They were a tough team, but we played like we were supposed to play, like we can play.”
Chandler Christopher, a 5-8 sophomore guard from Greeneville, had 14 points and six assists, while McQueen at point guard tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. She was key down the stretch, hitting six straight free throws in the final 1:02 as the Lady Bucs put the game away.
“I know I’m not going to be perfect, but I try to do the best I can to help my team win,” McQueen said. “It was a good team effort, a good team win. I see that we’re growing as one unit and I can see us progressing from here.”
Cara Bowling ended with a dozen points, while Serena Clark barely missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds despite being in foul trouble a large part of the second half.
Anna Munn led the Lady Sycamores (3-5) with 21 points and Racheal Mahan ended with 11. ETSU’s coach was certainly pleased with the victory over one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference after her team challenged No. 5 Kentucky in a 73-56 loss on Sunday.
“We were coming off a hard fought loss at Kentucky, but I was pleased with our leadership,” Ezell said. “We made free throws, took care of the ball down the stretch and played well as a team. Coach Nikki Davis did a fantastic job in the scouting report, and the kids were prepared. They did their jobs, we did ours and ETSU wins so it was a good day.”
The Lady Bucs made 15 of 19 free-throw attempts and also dominated the action inside.
Even in a competitive first half with 11 lead changes, they outscored the Lady Sycamores 20-6 in the paint to take a 36-31 lead at the break.
Overall, the Lady Bucs held a 36-18 advantage in the paint with the margin 30-8 midway through the second half.
“I’m just ecstatic for the kids,” Ezell said. “The post players from Indiana State do a nice job burying you and we were really worried about how they play there. I’m even more pleased with our defensive effort. We’re capable of scoring and we’re capable of stopping people. We did a good job of that, holding down a couple of really good post players.”
ETSU will try to keep the momentum going Saturday when they host Chattanooga. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.