NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 4, 2004) - North Division top seed East Tennessee State survived a quarterfinal scare from Furman at the 2004 Southern Conference Basketball Championship held at the North Charleston Coliseum. ETSU beat Furman 94-84.
Senior post Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) had been quiet for the most part, but in the final four minutes, Fields stepped to the forefront and carried the Bucs. Fields scored nine of his 15 in the end stretch to help ETSU hold on to a hard-fought lead after trailing by as many as nine points in the second half.
"Over the final 10 minutes we stepped up on defense," said ETSU coach Murry Bartow. "We really feed off our defense. In one stretch, (Furman) was scoring at will, but our guys remained calm."
Until Fields took over, Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) was the man for the ETSU, carrying the Bucs at times. Smith finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. James Anthony (Tampa, Fla.) added 18 points, including a stick back on a missed free throw to seal the game late.
Not to be outdone, Southern Conference Player of the Year Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) turned in a 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, 3 steal performance. He also blocked two shots, making him East Tennessee State's all-time leader in that category. Wadood passed Greg Dennis with his 175th swat.
ETSU needed all the help they could get to negate the performance of Furman's Eric Webb. The Paladin freshman hit 8-of-17 shots, including 6-of-11 3-pointers, sank all six free throw tries and finished with 28 points - a career high.
"That was a heck of a basketball game," said Furman coach Larry Davis. "If that had been on TV, it would have shown how great the Southern Conference is. We laid everything on the line and played hard. The key of the game was our turnovers. We had 20. You can't turn the ball over against a team like ETSU and expect to win."
Maleye Ndoye added 22 points for the Paladins (No. 4 seed, South) and Nick Sanders had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Hot shooting from the perimeter for Furman gave the Paladins a 49-47 halftime lead in a game a fast-paced game.
Webb carried the unconscious hand for Furman, sinking 6-of-9 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and had 20 points before the break. In one stretch, Webb scored 11 points as part of a 17-4 that saw the Paladins erase a 10-point deficit and take a five-point lead.
ETSU had a good half of its own with Tim Smith and James Anthony doing most of the damage. The duo combined for 23 points to help keep the Bucs within striking distance.
ETSU advances to Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal contest where it will meet Davidson, a 68-61 winner over Elon on Thursday.