Senior forward Jilian Partin led the way offensively with a team-high 16 points in 32 minutes of play. But the bulk of the minutes in Friday night’s 68-55 loss to ETSU at Allen Arena were played by freshmen and sophomores.
Sophomore guard Jenna Bartsokas played 31 minutes. Freshmen Anna Bowers, Clair Waggener and Brittany Duerk played more than 20 minutes and Chelsea Burroughs played 14. Sophomore Cree Nix also played 20 minutes.
“Anna is a lot more confident playing with her teammates,” said Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett. “Her endurance and her breathing are better. “She is a good shooter. We have confidence in her shot anytime she takes it. She is really doing some good things.”
Partin played one of her better games, adding five rebounds to her points lead.
“Jilian really played well,” said Bennett. “She hit 50 percent of her threes and twos. She was getting in there on loose balls and playing tough around the basket.”
The game was “Think Pink” and “Pack the House” night. Donations were collected from 1,231 fans for breast cancer awareness. The Lady Bisons wore pink socks with their game uniforms and pink warm-up shirts.
“The crowd was super,” said Bennett. “The high school teams were playing and some of their fans are our fans. The crowd really boosted the team.”
The Lady Bisons tied ETSU 21-21 on a 3-pointer by Partin with 3:35 left in the first half. They then went on a 10-4 run to close out the half with a 31-25 lead.
The second half, however, belonged to ETSU. Forward Latisha Belcher connected on a lay-up 11 seconds into the half to start a 17-6 ETSU run that sealed the game.
“We had a decent first half,” said Bennett. “Late in the game we made some turnovers they converted into fast break baskets. “For the most part though we kept our poise and did some good things defensively. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Waggener scored with 16:05 left in the game to tie the score at 37-37, but the Lady Bisons would never be that close to lead again the rest of the way.
With 6:53 remaining the Lady Bisons pulled within three points, 51-48, on a lay-up by Bartsokas. ETSU continued to build on their lead to close out the game.
Joining Partin in double figures were senior center Katie Rollins with 11 points and Bowers with 10. It was the first double figures performance for Rollins since she scored 13 at Bowling Green State on Nov. 22. Bowers has scored in double figures in her last four games in a row.
“Katie played a really strong game,” said Bennett. “She really went for rebounds. She was snatching them and going to get them instead of just tapping at them. She finished well around the basket.”
Nix led the Lady Bisons in rebounds with eight. ETSU out-rebounded the Lady Bisons 50-35.
“Rebounding really hurt us,” said Bennett. “We have to do a better job of blocking out. We gave up 25 offensive boards. That is a lot of second opportunities. It is hard to win when you have that big of a margin on rebounds.”
Forward Siarre Evans posted a double-double with 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for ETSU.
Guard TaRonda Wiles led with a game-high 19 points. Belcher added 14. Guard Gwen Washington finished with 11. All four are starters, and all but Washington played 35 or more minutes.
“Their starters played virtually the whole game,” said Bennett. “It was not a moral victory, but we did take it down to striking distance until the last media timeout.
“That’s the best we have played them in the last two years. Hopefully, that gives us some confidence if we meet them in the tournament. We can see that with just a little bit of improvement we have a great chance.”
The Lady Bisons lost their ninth game in a row to fall to 2-13 in the conference, 4-20 overall. ETSU is 12-3 in the conference, 14-9 overall.
The turnaround time is quick for the Lady Bisons. They will host USC Upstate Sunday afternoon at 2 at Allen Arena.
“It’s a pretty quick turnaround,” said Bennett. “It will be interesting to see how we focus on Upstate after playing Belmont and ETSU, two of the top teams in the league on TV in front of big crowds.
“We are going to play our best game of the season on Sunday. We want to get some momentum for when we go into Georgia next week.”