Thursday night at Allen Arena the Lady Bisons lost 76-65 to ETSU, the Atlantic Sun Champion for the past two years. The Lady Bucs have won 11 of the 12 meetings between the two teams.
“If you knock out those two games in Jacksonville we have played at a consistently good level since the first of the year,” Bennett said. “We are not quite where we need to be, but I feel like we are progressing.”
But the Lady Bisons challenged ETSU until the very end. And the problems with rebounding and turnovers that hampered them in games at Jacksonville and North Florida appeared to be solved.
“It is frustrating to fall short, but our level of play was so much higher than it was last weekend,” Bennett said. “Their team is really hard for us to play because they are so skilled and so athletic.
“We rebounded evenly which was a great accomplishment after being killed on the boards down in Florida. If we had played at this level in Jacksonville we would have had a great chance to take two games there.”
ETSU built up a 13-point lead in the second half, 50-37 with 13:28 left to play as TaRonda Wiles connected on a jump shot.
But the Lady Bisons went on a 13-0 run, tying the game at 50-50 with 9:32 remaining. The run was sparked by 3-pointers from Chelsea Burroughs and Morgan Faulkner, who hit two in a row.
ETSU pulled back ahead by four at 54-50. Faulkner went to the line and sank a pair of free throws to pull the Lady Bisons within two at 54-52 with 8:41 on the clock.
Siarre Evans, who did not play in the first half for ETSU, hit a 3-pointer with 6:44 on the clock for a 61-52 lead. With 5:27 left Evans again hit a 3-pointer to extend ETSU’s lead to 12 at 66-44.
The Lady Bisons pulled to within six at 66-60 when Burroughs connected on a lay-up with four minutes left.
Wiles answered with a 3-pointer to extend ETSU’s lead back to nine, 69-60, with 3:37 remaining. ETSU would lead once again by double figures as Wiles scored for a 71-60 lead on the way to sealing the win.
“We gave them runs that were too big,” Bennett said. “If we had held them to runs of four-to-six points instead of 10 points we wouldn’t have had such a big hole to try to come back from.
“I was proud that we kept coming at them. We had to foul late and missed some shots trying to play catch up and the margin increased. Typically, we have tried to play catch up and a five-or-six-point game becomes a double-digit game.”
Both teams were credited with 39 rebounds. Lipscomb sophomore center Brittany Duerk grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Center Tosha Austin pulled in eight rebounds to lead ETSU.
The Lady Bisons were also hoping to cut down on their turnovers, but they committed 17 miscues, including 10 in the first half. ETSU made 11 turnovers.
Nine of 10 Lady Bisons scored. Burroughs, a sophomore forward, was the only Lipscomb player in double figures with 16 points.
“Chelsea consistently sprints the floor,” Bennett said. “We can throw it ahead to her and put pressure on the defense immediately. She is the best we have at running the lane.
“Sometimes she gets out there and gets the lay-up. Sometimes she shoots the three.”
Freshman forward Hannah Phillips, junior guard Jenna Bartsokas and Faulkner each finished with eight points.
“Morgan Faulkner had two threes and two free throws in a great little spurt in the second half,” Bennett said. “Valerie Bronson did some good things. Everybody was chipping in here and there.
“Duerk was in the middle of three of ETSU’s players on a lot of her rebounds. She was snatching the ball away in a crowd.”
The game was a power struggle from the start.
The Lady Bisons kept ETSU at bay in the first half. ETSU never led by more than six points.
With 10:22 left in the half the Lady Bisons trailed by six for the last time in the period when Tarita Gordon hit a pair of free throws for a 23-17 lead.
The Lady Bisons continued to stay close. They took over the lead for the first time in the game with 8:06 left before intermission when a 3-pointer by Bronson put the Lady Bisons on top 25-23.
In the final 6:12 of the half the game would be tied four times.
The Lady Bisons last led in the game with 2:20 remaining in the first half when Phillips connected on a jumper in the paint for a 31-29 advantage.
The Lady Bisons were behind 35-31 at intermission.
ETSU was paced by Wiles with a game-high 25, including 14 in the first half. Gwen Washington added 17. Evans scored 14 points, all in the second half.
ETSU is 9-7, 7-1 in the conference.
The Lady Bisons, 4-15, 2-7 in the A-Sun, will face Campbell Saturday afternoon at 1 at Allen Arena.