LEXINGTON, Va. (Jan. 18, 2002) -- East Tennessee State shot 63 percent from the floor in the second half to outlast VMI, 67-62, Saturday afternoon from Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va. Freshman guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) led five Bucs in double figures with 19 points.
ETSU led, 63-52, when junior forward Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) hit a free throw with 2:46 left, but VMI countered with an 8-0 run to slice the lead to three when Richard Little converted a layup at the 1:20 mark. Fields answered with a jumper 27 second later to push the Buc margin to 65-60, and ETSU hit two of four free throws in the final :23 to keep distance and post its seventh straight win over the Keydets.
Rhoda was joined in double figures by Fields and senior guard Ryan Lawson (Rogersville, Tenn.) - each with 11, while sophomore slasher Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) and junior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) each scored 10 points for the Bucs, who won their third straight game while retiring a six-game road losing streak.
Tim Allmond and Ben Rand paced VMI with 13 points each, and Allmond logged his second-career double double with 10 rebounds, matching his career-high and marking the second straight game he has pulled down 10 boards. Freshman center Tadas Mankevicius scored a career-high 11 points.
Both teams owned seven point leads in the first half and the game was tied four times before ETSU assumed a 24-23 lead at halftime. Both teams shot the ball miserably in the opening half - ETSU was 23.3% on 7 of 30 shooting, while VMI could muster only 8 of 28 shots for 28.6%.
The Bucs (10-6, 4-1 SoCon) pounded the ball inside in the second half and shot 63.2 % (12-19) after intermission, exploiting VMI's depleted front-line corps which was further aggrevated when senior center Zach Batte departed the game with his fourth foul with 16:29 left in the second half. ETSU hit six "and one" layups in the final 14 minutes of regulation and converted three of those into three-point plays.
"Our plan was to take it inside and we really did not do that in the first half," said ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis following the game. "Ryan Lawson did a good job in the second half. I just had a gut feeling to leave him in there in the second half, and he did a good job without any turnovers."
VMI led 36-29 when Tim Allmond converted a three-point play with 13:59 left, but the Bucs responded with and 8-0 run to surge ahead. The spurt was keyed by back-to-back three-point plays by Wadood and Rhoda.
The game was tied four more times before freshman forward Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) nailed a free throw to put East Tennessee State up for good, 43-42, with 10:30 remaining. The lead grew to as much as 11 as the Bucs continued to pound the ball inside - earning trips to the free throw line along the way. ETSU converted 26 of 36 free throws for the game while VMI hit 16 of 24 from the stripe.
ETSU's 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defenses kept the Keydets off-balance for most of the second half until VMI's late game charge. A pair of Tadas Mankevicius free throws cut the deficit to 65-62 with :23 left, but the Keydets could come no closer.
The Buccaneers will next travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to face Wofford Saturday evening at 7 p.m.