Cullowhee, N.C. (Feb. 4, 2002) - Junior Ryan Lawson (Rogersville, Tenn.) scored a career-high 32 points to lead East Tennessee State to an 86-76 victory over Western Carolina Monday night at the Ramsey Activity Center. The win improves East Tennessee to 13-9 overall and 6-5 in the Southern Conference, while Western Carolina falls to 11-11, 5-6. The Bucs, who took over sole possession of third-place in the SoCon North Division with the victory, have now won three straight and four of their last five.
Lawson, whose previous best was scoring 20 points versus Morehead State as a freshman, was 10-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Three other Buccaneers scored in double figures. The Southern Conference's top rebounder, Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.), registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) and Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) contributed 12 points each. Fields also had nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
The game was a tight battle throughout the first half with the largest lead being five points on two occasions by ETSU - 31-26 at the 6:07 mark and 33-28 at the 4:43 mark. Western went on an 8-3 run to take a one-point lead (36-35) with 2:43 left in the first half. Over a minute later, estern's Kelvin Wylie hit a jumper to give the Cats a 38-37 advantage with 1:12 left. However, the Bucs' Lawson drained a 3-pointer to put ETSU up two (40-38) with a minute to go and Wadood connected on a pair of free throws to make the score 42-38 at the break.
Lawson had 14 points in the first 20 minutes, going 4-of-6 from 3-point range. His play helped the Bucs shoot 51.6 percent from the field. Even though Western shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half, it was out-rebounded 17-9.
ETSU jumped out to a nine-point lead to start the second half, only to have Western answer with an 8-0 run to make it a one-point game (47-46) with 15:40). The Catamounts would tie the game at 59 with 9:47 left in the game. However, each time Western would get close, the Bucs would hit clutch shots to keep the advantage. WCU made one final run at ETSU, cutting its deficit to three (76-73) on a Wylie jumper with 2:43 left. Lawson answered with a 3-pointer and the Bucs hit 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.
Western Carolina was led by Kevin Martin's 28 points. Catamount seniors Willie Freeman, Wylie and Cory Largent each scored in double figures. Freeman had 15 points, Wylie 14 and Largent 10. Fellow senior Casey Rogers added a season-high 10 assists for the Cats.
East Tennessee State held an impressive 41-26 advantage on the boards, getting 18 offensive rebounds. The Bucs entered the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the SoCon, but hit 9-of-18 in the contest, while Western only made 5-of-22.
ETSU will return home for its next three games, starting by hosting SoCon North Division leader Davidson on Saturday at 4:00 pm.