Lady Cats go cold, bounced from SoCon Tournament

The Western Carolina women’s basketball team could not put it together for a full 40 minutes, as No. 2 seed East Tennessee State used a 47-26 second half surge to power past the No. 7 seeded Catamounts 73-53 in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament.

Western Carolina finished 0-15 this season when held under 60 points.

The Buccaneers shot 50 percent from the field for the game, including an overpowering 64 percent in the second half. Tianna Tarter led ETSU with 14 points, while Maria Bond contributed with 12 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.

Western Carolina freshman Ace Easter and senior Justin Taylor were the only two Catamounts to reach double figures in the game, scoring 13 and 11 points, respectively, on a combined 9-of-25 from the field. Taylor also added a team-high four assists.

Looking to pull an early tournament upset, Western Carolina came out flat in the first half, watching ETSU jump out to a 13-5 advantage. The Catamounts used a 12-2 run over a period that ETSU without a basket for nearly 6 minutes to take a 17-15 lead 8:04 remaining. The teams would go back and forth the rest of the first half, with Western Carolina taking a 27-26 into the halftime locker room.

It was all Buccaneers the rest of the way.

“ETSU had a great spurt in the second half, and they have so many shooters. They did a great job of having really good balance,” said Western Carolina head coach Karen Middleton. “I thought we did a good job of being aggressive in the first half. They had a little too much, and hats off to them, they played really well.”

It was a bitter end to an even bitter season for Western Carolina. The Catamounts finished 11-19 overall and 3-11 in the Southern Conference.

Two of those conference wins came in the final two games of the regular season.

“It’s the trick of the trade, you win some, you lose some,” said Taylor, one of WCU’s three seniors. “They outplayed us in the second half and did a little bit more as a whole than we did.”

Western Carolina has only advanced to the semifinals of the tournament once since winning the tournament title in 2009.