There’s no doubt where the wish list starts for the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team.
The Lady Bucs are still looking for their first victory of the season as Christmas fast approaches. They’re sitting at 0-10 during this finals week, enduring what has become the longest losing streak in program history.
The next chance to break through comes Tuesday night at home against Morehead State.
It’s a humbling start for an ETSU team that won three straight conference championships before last season, averaging 21 wins. Even last season, the Lady Bucs finished 19-12.
“We’re certainly not happy that we’re oh-fer, but I’m pleased with the effort,” coach Karen Kemp said Wednesday after practice. “It would be easy for the girls to get down and discouraged. They don’t want to be known as the worst team in the history of ETSU basketball, so they continue to stay focused and work hard.”
Natalie Pickwell never could have imagined her team would be winless six weeks into her senior season.
“It’s been hard … something we never expected before the season started,” said Pickwell, one of three seniors on the roster. “I think we were playing as individuals out there early, but we’ve started to come together as a team. This is a young team and it just takes times.
“I think we’ve shown we’re getting better with each game.”
The latest proof would be a 93-77 loss at 18th-ranked North Carolina on Sunday. It was a four-point game at half, and the Lady Bucs stayed within striking distance until the last few minutes.
They had four players score in double figures, led by Shawn Randall’s 16 points, and held a 50-45 rebounding advantage. They also committed 18 turnovers, below their season average of 22.
“That’s the best we’ve played Carolina since I’ve been here,” said Kemp. “With seven or eight minutes left, it was under 10 points, and we ended up outrebounding them, which I never would have dreamed was possible.
“I told the girls afterward that if we’d played that way earlier, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.”
Kemp still thinks her team can compete for another conference championship, despite an 0-2 start that includes a 28-point loss at preseason favorite Florida Gulf Coast. But first things first.
Morehead State is 2-8 and certainly looks beatable. Chattanooga, the perennial Southern Conference power, comes to town two nights later, and the Lady Bucs have won the last two games in that series.
“I’m encouraged under the circumstances,” said Kemp. “We’re making better decisions, not trying to force things. We still have a lot of goals out there, and we’re making progress.”
n The ETSU men’s 65-48 victory at Appalachian State last Saturday left the A-Sun with an 8-0 record in head-to-head games against the Southern Conference. The Bucs also had a previous win over the Mountaineers at home.
The SoCon finally got on the board Sunday when Furman defeated Jacksonville 75-69 in Greenville, S.C.
n Former ETSU star Courtney Pigram made quite a splash in his debut with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League.
Pigram scored 33 points in a 103-81 victory over the Canton Charge. The 6-foot guard was 13 of 22 from the field, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range.
Pigram, who scored over 2,000 points at ETSU, was taken in the fifth round of the NBADL draft last month by the Idaho Stampede. He was in the “available player pool” when picked up Dec. 9 by the Red Claws.
His former teammate, Justin Tubbs, was drafted in the eighth round by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers but was released. The team apparently expected the shooting guard to spend some time at the point before seeing the results.
n A couple of other former Bucs are watching more than playing overseas.
Mike Smith is averaging 3.8 points and 2.0 rebounds for Eisbearen Braemerhaven in the German BBL. The swingman has averaged 11.8 minutes in 12 games, and his team stands seventh at 7-5.
Meanwhile, Micah Williams is averaging 4.7 points and 1.2 rebounds in Japan. His team, Shimane Susanoo Magic, is sixth in its division at 10-8.