JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 2, 2003) - With a nationally-televised conference opener just around the corner, the East Tennessee State University men's basketball breezed through their final non-conference tune up game with a 108-57 trouncing of Division III Juniata College.
Junior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) scored 22 points and tied a career-high with seven steals to lead a batch of six Buccaneers that reached double figures in scoring. Along with Wadood, true freshman post Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) scored 16 points, sophomore guard Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) collected 15, junior post Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) and junior guard Michael Tolliver (Bremo Bluff, Va.) netted 12 points apiece, and true freshman guard Ben Rhoda(Dayton, Ohio) added 10.
ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis was pleased with the effort, particularly the efforts of players like Nuckles, Tolliver and Rhoda.
"I was really happy with the last 10 minutes of the game," said DeChellis, whose team improved to 6-5 on the season and will open its Southern Conference schedule in an ESPN2 nationally-broadcasted clash with SoCon North Division foe UNC-Greensboro at 2 p.m. Saturday. "I thought our guys did a great job.
"We've been trying to get some of our guys going in practice, but sometimes it takes a game and I thought guys like Mike Tolliver, Brad Nuckles, James Anthony (Brandon, Fla.) and Ben Rhoda gave us some good minutes off the bench."
Despite coming away with a 51-point victory, the Bucs seemed to be a little sluggish early on and allowed the Eagles to stick around with the score standing at 26-22 with 9:27 left in the first half. However, DeChellis put his starting five back on the floor and that group helped ignite a 30-6 offensive run that left the score at 56-28 heading into the break.
In the second half, Juniata again managed to trade buckets with ETSU for the first 10 minutes trailing 81-52 with 9:37 left. However, the Bucs managed another offensive surge that resulted in a 27-5 run to end the game.
DeChellis said his team is excited about finally starting the SoCon slate.
"I think it's a good conference," DeChellis said. "We'll definitely have to be ready to play even better than we did tonight if we want to win Saturday."
For Juniata, Jeff Lau led the way with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, while teammate Craig Biller pitched in 11 points.
Fields grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in the game, while true freshman point guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) dished out a game-high six assists and had just two turnovers.