ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WJHL) – What began as a back-and-forth contest ended as a textbook Buccaneer victory, as the Blue and Gold downed the Bulldogs in the Southern Conference quarterfinals, 63-47.
ETSU opened the night on an 8-2 run, but found themselves trailing after the first ten minutes, courtesy of an Andrea Bailey steal and score to put the Bulldogs up, 13-11.
Another 8-2 run to close the first half, capped off by a Nevaeh Brown second-chance bucket, put the Bucs back on top 28-24 at halftime.
In the second half, ETSU got back to what they do best – defense and rebounding.
Samford managed just nine third-quarter points, while the Bucs scored 17. They pushed the lead to double digits and never looked back.
The Blue and Gold held Bailey, the SoCon Player of the Year, to just five points on 1-of-13 shooting.
“That goes to Nevaeh Brown,” Mock Brown said after the game. “She’s the most versatile defender that we have and if she’s denying a player, it’s going to be difficult. So, Andrea is a great player, but Nevaeh is an incredible defender.”
The Bucs also hit the glass hard, coming up with 42 rebounds to Samford’s 28.
“Really just tried to focus on hanging our hat on defense and rebounding like we do every game,” Mock Brown said. “Because we know we can be consistent there and try to let our offense just come to us – take what the defense gives you.”
That offense was paced by the All-SoCon honorees, Jiselle Thomas and Kendall Folley. Thomas poured in 18 points and added five assists, while Folley spun in 17 points in the victory.
“We just came in knowing we just needed to trust each other, have patience, play with heart and I think we were just really locked in on each other,” Thomas said.
“This isn’t pressure, this isn’t something that we showed up like ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve never been here before’ – we showed up like we’re ready,” Folley added.
But, the breakout performance of the night came from sophomore post player, Jakhyia Davis. She registered 20 points and ten rebounds in a double-double performance that had everyone on the bench smiling from ear to ear.
“I really have to credit her because she had a load obviously on defense tonight – then also stepped up offensively and hit some really key buckets,” Mock Brown said. “She has stepped up tremendously in the absence of Jayla Ruffus-Milner in our conference play.”
Samford’s post counterpart, Sussy Ngulefac, led the Bulldogs with 16 points in the loss.
With the victory ETSU (23-8) has tied the program record for wins in a single season, set back in 2009-10.
The Bucs continue their run in the SoCon Tournament on Friday afternoon against No. 2 Chattanooga. The Mocs took both regular season meetings between the two programs.
Tip-off is set for 1:15 p.m. in Asheville.