JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Lady Bucs were back playing in Freedom Hall for the first time since 2019 on Saturday. However, ETSU was unable to grab its first SoCon win of the season, falling 68-58 to Samford.

The Blue and Gold got off to a strong start and led 18-16 after the first quarter. The defense ramped up the intensity for nearly the entire quarter, allowing just six total points in the frame.

But, the Bucs managed just seven points themselves, taking a 25-22 advantage into the break.

The Bulldogs came out firing in the second half, scoring 30 points in the third quarter and stretching the lead to double digits.

ETSU was down, but not out. A Jiselle Thomas transition layup with just 2:33 to play capped an 8-0 run and cut the lead down to just two points.

Brenda Mock Brown and company would not get any closer, however, dropping a ten-point decision.

“Little things like not getting back, not recognizing a shooter in the corner or something – just small things,” Nevaeh Brown said. “Like, we were just having a lot of – brain clouds.”

“Comparing all the conference games, I thought tonight was our best overall effort even though we gave up 30 points in a quarter,” Mock Brown said with a wry smile. “I think some of that was the emotional setback of halftime. Then, you know, others, it was just bad coverage. You can’t give up 30 points in a quarter and usually win in this league – that’s not going to happen.”

Part of that emotional setback were two injuries to starters Courtney Moore and Jayla Ruffus-Milner in the first half. Both sustained lower-body injuries and neither returned to the game.

“Yeah they put buckets in the basket and get rebounds on the court, but off the court, we’re dogs,” Brown said of seeing her teammates injured. “We’re all close so it’s just, like, ‘dang.'”

“We don’t know what the status is of these two players just yet, but of course it’s difficult,” Mock Brown said. “For the kids and also for us, schematically, in a big game.”

Brown led the Bucs with 16 points and chipped in five rebounds, while Jiselle Thomas finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

Samford’s Andrea Bailey scored a game-best 25 points, stuffing the stat sheet with eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

ETSU (13-6, 0-3 SoCon) hits the road this coming week for a two-game stretch. The Bucs will take the court again on Thursday at Furman. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.