Alex Stanford made the most of her second chance on Sunday evening at Brooks Gym.
Called for a double-dribble on USC-Upstate’s next to last possession, Stanford drove the lane and hit the winning layup with two seconds left in the Lady Spartans’ 63-62 win at East Tennessee State.
“Basically, I knew I had to go make the shot,” said Stanford, whose team improved to 7-9 overall and 2-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. “It all depended on me at that time and I knew I had to put it in the goal. That’s where my focus was.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Lady Bucs, who blew an 11-point lead in the second half and went scoreless the last 2:53 of the game. It was the fourth straight defeat for ETSU which fell to 5-11 overall and 1-4 in league play.
“I’m sick, a little bit disgusted,” ETSU head coach Brittney Ezell said. “We gave good enough effort, just not smart enough effort. Like I’ve said with this group all along, winning is learned behavior. They’ve just not learned how to do it yet. They’ve learned to get to the verge. They’ve just not learned to get over that hump yet.”
Up 62-61 as the clock wound down, ETSU’s Chandler Christopher missed a wide-open layup with 11 seconds to go and Upstate gained possession. Lady Spartans coach Tammy George called a timeout with seven seconds left.
The plan all along was to get the ball in Stanford’s hands and let her drive to the basket. Ezell warned the Lady Bucs, but they weren’t able to slide over quick enough to stop it.
“She was bound and determined to get the ball,” Upstate’s coach said about Stanford. “When she gets that way, you’re not going to stop her. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t have called that timeout. I was going to go back to her regardless and put in her hands. Because again, she was determined to get to the hole.”
After taking the inbounds, the Lady Bucs’ Brianna McQueen heaved a shot from beyond half court which missed at the buzzer
The loss came without leading scorer Cara Bowling, who missed Sunday’s game with a hip injury. She is expected to be back in uniform Thursday evening when ETSU hosts Kennesaw State.
In her abscence, the Lady Bucs relied on a balanced attack with 13 points from Shawn Randall, 12 from McQueen and 11 from Maria Bond.
Freshman Shamauria Bridges added nine points, all on 3-point goals, while Serena Clark had eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
It wasn’t enough in a game which the Lady Bucs led most of the way.
After ETSU scored the first four points, neither team led by more than a single possession for the rest of the first half.
Shawn Randall sliced through the Lady Spartans’ defense and hit a layup with two seconds left to give ETSU a 30-29 lead at the break.
Brittany Starling made the first basket of the second half for Upstate, but the Lady Bucs responded with nine straight for a 39-31 lead. Another spurt by ETSU resulted in its first double-digit lead (56-45) as McQueen hit a short jumper from the left side with 8:05 left.
However, Upstate answered with an 8-0 run of its own. From there, the largest ETSU lead was six after a pair of McQueen free throws with 2:53 left.
Led by Clark, ETSU also held a 45-36 rebounding advantage. The most telling statistic, however, was the number of turnovers. The Lady Bucs turned the ball over 21 times to just eight for Upstate.
The Lady Bucs also started out 5-for-5 from the field in the second half before making only four of their next 18 shots. Their last points came on the aforementioned free throws.
As for the four-game losing streak, ETSU’s coach is trying to put that out of her mind.
“Basketball is a long season,” Ezell said. “I try to not to even focus on it being a skid. There isn’t much you can do, but look at it one game at a time. We will deal with it the best we can. If I started looking at it as four games, then it’s going to be a problem. What are we going to do the next possession, the next game? That’s the best way to approach it.”