#13 Bucs Capture 20th Straight Win

Photo by Tessa Mortensen
Photo by Tessa Mortensen

MELBOURNE, FLA.- It didn't come easy, but the #13 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers picked up their 20th straight win Wednesday night on the road at Eastern Florida State, holding off a late charge by the Titans to win 92-86 and move one game closer to an outright Suncoast Conference title. 

After a 10 day layoff, the Bucs looked rusty to get things going Wednesday.  Eastern Florida took advantage of that and jumped out to a 13-7 lead midway through the first quarter of action. The Titans eventually stretched their lead to eight before FSW kicked things into gear.  Tina Stephens got the Bucs started on an 8-0 run to knot the game at 16, but Eastern regained their footing to take a 24-21 lead after one.

FSW dominated the second quarter. Shondell Vickers found Stephens on a high-low feed to give the Bucs the lead back and they would stretch that lead to 10 midway through the quarter on a three from Za'Nautica Downs.  The Bucs eventually went up by as many as 14 as Downs picked off a pass and found Stephens on the break for two, but the Titans cut into the lead before the break to make it a 44-36 game at the break. 

FSW was outshot 44% to 38% in the half, but used 15 Eastern turnovers and turned them into 22 points to grab the halftime lead.  Stephens led all scorers with 18 first half points while Downs and Shakinah Guthrie had 8 apiece. 

The Bucs controlled the early portion of the third quarter, coming out of the locker room to score the first seven points to open up a 15 point advantage.  An offensive rebound and putback from Guthrie later in the period pushed the lead to 16 before the Titans made it a 12 points game at the end of the quarter with FSW up 70-58.

FSW looked well in control as they held the 12 points lead to the six minute mark of the fourth. That's when things begin to go South for the Bucs. A pair of turnovers and an offensive foul on the Bucs gave Eastern a trio of extra possessions and the Titans took advantage of them with buckets on each trip to quickly cut it to a six point game at 81-75 with four minutes remaining. After an FSW free throw, a three by the Titans made it a four point game and seconds later they trimmed it to just three.  With FSW leading 86-82 with under a minute remaining, Eastern drove to the basket for two and drew a foul and knocked down the subsequent free throw to make it a one point game at 86-85.  The Bucs got to the free throw line and made one out of two, but got the offensive rebound and eventually made one out of two again to take a three point lead.  The Titans had a chance to go for the tie with under 10 seconds to go, but Downs came up with a huge steal to end the threat and the Bucs knocked down enough free throws in the closing seconds to hold Eastern off by a score of 92-86. 

The Bucs recovered from a slow shooting start to hit on 54% in the second half to finish the game at 44% overall.  They uncharacteristically struggled from deep, going just 1 for 12 from three and capitalized on just 31 of 53 from the free throw line, including eight missed charities in the final 20 seconds of the game.

Stephens set a school record with 35 points in the win, while also pulling down 12 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.  Guthrie got in on the double-double act as well, scoring a career high 17 points while pulling down 15 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end in the win. Curry and Downs each chipped in 15 for the Bucs in the win. 

The win was the 20th in a row for the Bucs who improve to 24-2 overall on the season and 6-0 in Suncoast Conference play where they can finish no worse than a tie for first place with three games left to go. Eastern Florida fails in their upset bid to fall to 13-11 overall and 3-3 in conference action with the loss. 

FSW will be back at it on Saturday when they hit the road to St. Petersburg.  The Bucs and Titans will tip at 2 PM with an outright Suncoast Conference title on the line for FSW.