If the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team is heading into a lions’ den on its first trip of the season to Florida, at least the Lady Bucs are aware of what they’re getting themselves into.
ETSU plays at traditional Atlantic Sun Conference power Florida Gulf Coast tonight. It’s been a place where A-Sun teams have basically gone to lose. The Eagles are 55-1 at home in conference games since joining the league.
“I know what to expect going down there,” first-year ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. “We came down here with my Belmont teams. They’re a solid fundamental team that can shoot the ball well. They play great at home and always get a great crowd.”
The main reason FGSU averages 1,748 fans for its home games is the amazing success the program has had at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Fla. The one A-Sun home loss came against ETSU five years ago. The Lady Bucs won 75-67 to earn one of only two victories they have over FGCU. The Eagles lead the all-time series, 10-2.
Last year’s meeting in Johnson City was likely the most memorable for the Eagles. They broke the NCAA Division I record by making 22 shots from 3-point range in a 97-60 blowout.
“It’ll be a difficult test for us to guard their motion and the way they play,” Ezell said.
A look at the A-Sun statistics shows that ETSU is actually having a better season from 3-point range. The Eagles put up a lot more long-range attempts and make more of them, but the Lady Bucs are shooting 35 percent to lead the conference. FGCU is shooting 33.8 percent.
“I think we give them some matchup problems too,” Ezell said. “I think we have enough weapons that I think we can combat what they do.”
ETSU is coming off a 73-63 loss to Northern Kentucky that left it 5-8 overall, 1-1 in the A-Sun. The Eagles are 7-6, 1-0.
“We’ve been watching a lot of tape,” Ezell said. “But we haven’t been really doing a lot of game planning. We’re focusing on making sure we get better. After Thursday, we’re not going to be where we need to be by the end of the season, but we’ve got to be better and be able to build on it.”
Meanwhile, the Bucs were happy to escape the recent sub-freezing temperatures for the warmer climes of the Sunshine State. They also play at Stetson on Saturday.
“I think this is the first time you can accuse me of having a good schedule,” Ezell said “It’s a nice little change of pace. It’s nice to get out of the cold. I’m sure the kids are enjoying it.”
ETSU will return to Florida later in the month for games at Jacksonville and North Florida.