Karen Kemp and her East Tennessee State women’s basketball team could get used to this.
The Lady Bucs scored their third straight victory to start the 2012 calendar year with a 77-61 triumph over Kennesaw State on Monday afternoon at the MSHA Center.
“The last couple of games I feel like we’re getting to know one another better,” Kemp said after her team improved to 4-11 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. “We’re trying to get the entire team a little more involved, and it’s taken a little time for them to get that chemistry and to learn each another. But, if we keep working and focusing, we can achieve our goals for this season.”
Passing the ball around the perimeter in the early stages, the Lady Bucs fell behind 22-15. Once they started attacking the basket, the Lady Bucs went on a 16-2 run and turned the seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
“One thing we talked about was to drive (to the basket) and attack and then kick it out instead of looking for the three first,” said senior Natalie Pickwell, who led the team with a game-high 20 points. “Once we got doing that more and started attacking the rim, we got to the free-throw line more.”
After regaining the lead, the Lady Bucs never trailed again, taking a 40-33 lead into the half. Quickly establishing a 12-point lead in the second half, Kennesaw got no closer than a three-point margin the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Shawn Randall was key in those efforts, scoring the first five points of the second half and 12 points overall.
“We knew we had to gain the momentum,” Randall said. “I had to push the ball and get everybody involved in our transition (game). We needed this win to build our confidence and to finish with three wins before we go back on the road.”
Pickwell picked it up in the late stages with eight points during a 16-3 run which the Lady Bucs pushed the lead from 61-56 to a 77-59 margin. It helped that ETSU made 14 of 15 shots from the free-throw line.
“That’s definitely been one of our strong points,” Pickwell said. “That’s something coach emphasizes in practice, that we knock down the free throws and get those freebie points.”
Senior Tarita Gordon also finished with 12 points, hitting the 500-point mark for her career.
Sametria Gideon tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds to pace Kennesaw (7-10, 2-4). Tamasha Bolden and Elaina Gray each scored a dozen and Taylor Mills finished with 11 for the Lady Owls.
However, most of the game’s statistics favored the Lady Bucs, who forced 22 turnovers and held a 32-13 advantage with points off turnovers.
In addition, they hustled for an 8-0 lead in fast-break points, a 16-12 advantage in second-chance points and a 28-20 margin in points in the paint.
Most pleasing to the head coach was seeing 10 players in the scoring column. It was the key reason the Lady Bucs bench outscored the Lady Owls bench 32-9.
“I’ve felt all along like we’ve got a lot of people who can come in and help us,” Kemp said. “That’s got to be our focus, something that can help us down the road. We’re not going to be playing just seven or eight players. We have 10 or 11 players who can come in and we don’t miss a beat when they hit the floor.”
The Lady Bucs will try to keep the winning streak alive on a two-game Florida road later this week. ETSU plays at North Florida on Thursday evening and at Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon.