As the losses continue to mount, East Tennessee State women’s basketball coach Karen Kemp says it’s time for her team to grow up.
The Lady Bucs, with two freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, fell to 0-5 Saturday with a 78-63 loss to Middle Tennessee State at the Minidome.
“I’m still trying to figure this team out,” Kemp said. “We are young, but I keep telling them we can’t be young for the whole season. We have to grow up and grow up quick.”
Kortni Jones led MTSU (4-2) with 19 points, making 6 of 15 shots from 3-point range. None of the ETSU starters scored in double figures.
The Lady Bucs did have one bright spot. Cara Bowling, a freshman from Elizabethton, made the most of some extensive playing time. The 5-foot-8 guard led ETSU with 12 points in 17 minutes. She was 3 for 5 from the field and made 5 of 8 free throws.
“I had a good time, but losing is not any fun,” Bowling said. “I felt pretty good out there. As group we need to collectively get better, get a feel for each other.”
Bowling, who has been battling a quad injury, can expect more playing time now that she’s getting healthy.
“Cara’s gonna be really good for us,” Kemp said.
“She’s very aggressive. She’s a worker. If I could take her heart out and put it in some of the others, I would do it.”
Despite having trouble with the ball — they committed 27 turnovers — the Lady Bucs hung around for a while. MTSU was ahead 32-28 with 2:27 left in the first half when it went on a 7-0 run.
The Blue Raiders’ halftime lead of 41-30 matched their largest advantage of the opening 20 minutes. MTSU scored the first seven points of the second half to blow the game open. ETSU never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way and the biggest margin was 24.
“We kind of hung our heads,” Kemp said. “I’ve got to do a better job making sure that doesn’t happen because with 15 minutes to go, we still had plenty of time to get back in the game.”
Kemp wasn’t the only coach not terribly pleased after the game.
“We’re a better basketball team than that,” MTSU coach Rick Insell said. “We play Tennessee next week, and if we play like that, we’ll get beat by 50.”
ETSU outrebounded MTSU 46-44. Sophomore Destiny Mitchell led the Lady Bucs with eight rebounds, but she was 1 for 6 from the field and committed eight turnovers.
Icelyn Elie added 15 points for MTSU, while Ebony Rowe had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Lady Bucs don’t have any breaks coming up on their schedule. They play at Richmond on Monday night and then open Atlantic Sun Conference play at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson, the top two teams in the league’s preseason poll.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Kemp said. “We’ll get to see what we’re made of.”