The frustration boiled over for the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team on Thursday night.
Arguing amongst themselves during an 88-82 loss to Jacksonville at the Mini-Dome, the frustration continued in the postgame press conference where players talked about the Lady Bucs playing more as individuals than as a team.
It has been the message head coach Karen Kemp has tried to get across to them all season long.
“When you’re losing, it’s easy for people to point fingers,” Kemp said after ETSU fell to 6-18 overall and 5-8 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. “That’s what we’ve tried to get past the last month. We’ve just got to pull together as a team and forget about the individual stuff. Until we do that, the outcome is going to be like it was tonight.”
It was the two players with the best individual numbers who cut loose with the postgame comments about teamwork.
Destiny Mitchell had a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, but was clearly aggravated with the play down the stretch.
Down by just one possession in the final minute, the Lady Bucs committed a costly foul, backed up by a turnover which put the game out of reach.
“It was very tough. We got frustrated and started arguing with each other,” Mitchell said. “We don’t need that right now. We have to come together and play as a team instead of a bunch of individuals. Once we come together as a team, we can beat anybody.”
Despite the infighting, they almost beat the Lady Dolphins (8-17, 6-8) after losing to the same team by a 70-44 score one month ago in Jacksonville. This time around, it was competitive from start to finish with 13 ties and 11 lead changes.
However, senior Natalie Pickwell, who ended with 20 points, including four shots behind the 3-point line, said the Lady Bucs have to blame themselves for the loss.
“We didn’t fully come together as a team tonight or we would have pulled out that win,” Pickwell said. “We will have spurts where we will play as a team, even games where we will play as a team. Other times, we can’t come together. We have to get that worked out.”
Jacksonville, led by Crystal Bell with 22 points and Tracie Sneed with 15 points, pulled away late in the first half for a 41-34 lead at the break.
ETSU fought back with the first seven points of the second half to tie and stayed within five points until the final moments of the game.
The Lady Bucs, who outscored the Lady Dolphins 42-34 in the paint, got 12 points and eight rebounds from Tarita Gordon. Freshman Cara Bowling added 11 points and three steals, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Dolphins made 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch.
Kemp said the infighting has to stop before Saturday’s North Florida game or it will lead to more disappointment.
“It’s very frustrating and I lose a lot of sleep trying to figure out what I can do as a coach to pull us together,” she said. “That is my goal, to pull us together as a team. For whatever reason, we haven’t had leadership from any one player, be a senior, a junior or anyone to step up. That’s a frustrating part because we need that leadership on such a young team.”