NASHVILLE — The East Tennessee State women’s basketball team doesn’t have to worry anymore about missing the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.
Now if it can just figure out how to beat any of the better teams in the league.
The Lady Bucs couldn’t hold a 13-point second-half lead Saturday night at Belmont and were beaten 49-44. Katie Carroll delivered the big blow for the Lady Bruins — a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.
The loss was the fourth in the last five games for the Lady Bucs, who dropped to 7-20 overall and 6-10 in the conference. They were guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament earlier in the day when Lipscomb lost to South Carolina Upstate.
“That was our goal, since the season has been so tough,” said ETSU coach Karen Kemp. “But after we beat Lipscomb the other night we thought we might work our way up and not be one of the bottom seeds.”
Belmont (11-16, 10-6) is third in the standings, behind unbeaten Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson. Those are the two teams remaining on ETSU’s schedule, and the Lady Bucs haven’t beaten any of them.
They lost at home to Belmont 88-75 a month ago.
It looked like the Lady Bucs might get some payback and string together wins for the first time since the first week of January. They held Belmont to 15 points in the first half and led by 11 at the break.
“To play so well defensively and have the 11-point lead, we were feeling good about things,” said Kemp. “Once again our offense got us. I think we had five points in the last 7 1/2 minutes. It’s hard to win games that way.”
The Lady Bucs were outscored 38-14 in the second half. They shot 21 percent from the field to finish at 28 for the game.
The Lady Bruins shot 31 percent.
“I should have gotten us better offensive possessions and made free throws,” said ETSU point guard Tarita Gordon. “We gave them free throws and pretty much beat ourselves.”
Destiny Mitchell led the Lady Bucs with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Gordon had eight and seven, respectively.
In a rough-and-tumble game that left everyone shaking their heads over the officiating, the last call went Belmont’s way. Mitchell was whistled for an illegal screen as the Lady Bucs worked for a shot with 45 seconds left in a tie game.
Belmont had just pulled even on a 12-footer by Torie Vaught. With the ball back in their hands, the Lady Bruins milked the shot clock and found Carroll in the right corner.
Her left-handed shot rattled and fell through. ETSU’s chance to tie went astray when Brianna Bogard missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Vaught was fouled on the rebound.
She put the game away with two tosses.
Haley Nelson led Belmont with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Molly Ernst scored 12 points.
The Lady Bucs headed home for their last two games. They host Stetson on Thursday night and Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday.