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Ezell happy with Bucs’ mindset entering tourney

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 7, 2019 at 12:58 AM

JOHNSON CITY — After a rough start, the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team ended the regular season with a three-game winning streak.

The fourth-seeded Bucs (10-20) hope that momentum carries over against No. 5 Wofford (15-14) in the Southern Conference tournament quarterfinals Thursday at 1:15 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

ETSU coach Brittney Ezell believes her team is playing its best basketball of the season.

“We’re starting to get to the point where we know our identity, who we are,” Ezell said. “We simplified some things for the kids. We had a close loss at Wofford, an overtime loss at Furman and an overtime loss against Mercer or we could have easily rattled off seven straight wins. I like our mindset right now and the preparation right now.”

The teams split during the regular season. ETSU won 92-79 in Johnson City and Wofford pulled out a 77-74 win in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

ETSU trailed for most of the first game before outscoring Wofford 39-23 in the fourth quarter. Micah Scheetz scored a career-high 21 points, Erica Haynes-Overton had 16 points and 10 rebound and Britney Snowden also finished with 16 points.

Wofford jumped out to a big lead in the second game on Valentine’s Day and held off a furious ETSU rally at the end. Haynes-Overton had 21 points and five assists, and Lexus Spears was 7-of-7 from the field in a 17-point performance. Snowden added 13 points and seven rebounds.

Chloe Wanink, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, netted a game-high 22 points and Jamari McDavid pulled down 12 rebounds for Wofford. Da’Ja Green has had the hot hand of late, recently winning SoCon player of the week honors after scoring 24 points in the Terriers’ 84-75 win over Furman.

“I don’t think our kids are intimidated by anyone. You have to play somebody, and we just happen to be matched up against Wofford,” Ezell said. “We opened the tournament with them last year and it worked out. We’ve been able to get them on the neutral court, on our home court, but they’re really good at Wofford. When we look back, we didn’t defend them well. If we can shore that up, I think our kids will like that matchup.”

The winner likely awaits defending tournament champion Mercer (22-7), which will be heavily favored over Western Carolina (4-25) in their quarterfinal matchup at 11 a.m.

Other first-round games pit No. 2 Furman (17-12) against No. 7 Samford (10-19) at 3:30 p.m., and No. 3 Chattanooga (13-16) against No. 6 UNC Greensboro (11-18) at 5:45 p.m.

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