KENNESAW, Ga. — The 17th loss in a dismal season for the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team was one that got away.
The Lady Bucs became addicted to 3-point shots in the second half and lost to Kennesaw State for the first time ever, falling 78-68 Saturday at the KSU Convocation Center.
It was a game the Lady Bucs seemed to have under control with a 15-point lead in the first half. Then they started launching 3-point shot after 3-point shot. And they weren’t connecting.
ETSU went 2 of 18 from 3-point range in the second half, settling for the low-percentage shots instead of using their inside bread and butter, Destiny Mitchell.
Mitchell had been on a tear, making 38 of 51 shots in her last five games, and she came out hot again. After going 5 for 5 in the first half, her role was reduced to chasing long rebounds on her teammates’ missed 3-pointers.
The Lady Bucs finished 5 of 27 from 3-point range. Mitchell was 6 of 6 from the field and led the team with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Natalie Pickwell added 14 points, going 3 for 10 from long range.
“We were holding the ball more instead of moving it around like we were in the first half,” Mitchell said. “We were playing as individuals. I’ve never been frustrated like that. We need to come together as a team.”
ETSU had a 35-15 in first half and still led by double digits in second before the Owls finally got even at 53-53 with 12:27 left. The Lady Bucs led one more time before Kennesaw pulled away.
“When they started making their run, we were deflated for whatever reason,” ETSU coach Karen Kemp said. “There was still a lot of time and we hung our heads.”
The Owls (11-13, 6-7 Atlantic Sun Conference) had lost the first 12 games in the series against ETSU (6-17, 5-7).
“East Tennessee State is a good program and they’re the only team in the conference we hadn’t beaten since we’ve been Division I,” Kennesaw State coach Colby Tilley said. “Our team has a lot of character. We knew if we could keep it close, we might have a chance, just a chance. Then we got kind of lucky and some things happened for us.”
Kennesaw State shot 55 percent from the field and won going away despite missing 16 free throws.
The Lady Bucs came out firing on all cylinders, moving the ball, connecting on crisp passes and making shots. Midway through the first half they were up 24-12 thanks to a 14-2 run. They stretched their lead to 15 points twice before settling for a 40-32 halftime advantage. Ten ETSU players scored in the first half, including freshman Amy Duke, who hadn’t scored in two games since getting 21 against LSU.
Meanwhile, Mitchell, who was 12 for 15 from the field in her last outing, made all five of her shots in the first half. She got only three touches in first 10 minutes of the second half, however, and one was from 20 feet out.
Kemp said it seemed like her team forgot Mitchell was on the floor.
“We talked about that in the locker room,” she said. “Somebody who has been playing as well as she’s been playing the last couple of weeks, we’ve got to get the ball in her hands. For her to only get two attempts, one she got fouled on, in the second half, that’s unacceptable.”
Sametria Gideon led a balanced scoring attack for the Owls. She had 16 points despite missing seven minutes after turning an ankle in the first half. Chelcey Farrar had 15 points and 11 rebounds while Taylor Mills had 14, Kristina Wells had 13 and Lisa Capellan had 12.