HONOLULU, Hawaii (Dec. 20, 2007) - The ETSU men's basketball team had something to prove after coming off one of its worst losses in school history last weekend at Syracuse. The Buccaneers quickly answered the challenge with a 76-58 win over SEC challenger Georgia in the first round of the 44th annual Rainbow Classic Thursday evening inside the Stan Sheriff Center.
The victory snapped a two-game skid and the Bucs improved to 5-5 overall; while the Bulldogs fell to 6-2. The win over Georgia was ETSU's first win over an SEC opponent since the 1991-92 campaign, when the Bucs defeated Tennessee, 87-79.
"We needed a breakthrough win and we finally got one tonight," said head ETSU men's basketball coach Murry Bartow, whose team allowed its second lowest scoring total this season. "There were a lot of encouraging things that I saw out there from our guys. To beat a team like Georgia is very exciting and it's a big win for our program."
The Buccaneers saw three score in double figures with junior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) leading the way with a game-high 18 points in 34 minutes of work. Joining Pigram were seniors Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) and Kenyona Swader (Smyrna, Tenn.) as they each pitched in with 14-point efforts. Reed was also two rebounds shy of collecting his fourth career double-double. Georgia's Jeremy Price paced the Bulldogs with a team-high 10 points.
Joining the trio above was the stellar play of sophomore Blake Mishler (Metamora, Ill.) and junior Jocolby Davis (Meridian, Miss.). Mishler came off the bench and ignited the Bucs with eight points and three rebounds in 18 minutes of action. Davis, who started his first game at ETSU, netted seven points and tied his season-high with six assists.
"Our guys performed well and it was a really good team effort," added Bartow. "We played very scrappy and forced a lot of turnovers."
In the first half, ETSU began the first eight minutes hitting only two of its first 14 shots, which gave Georgia the opportunity to gain an early 11-5 lead. The Bulldogs jumped out to the lead due to its perimeter shooting, as Georgia connected on three of its first four three-point field goal attempts. However, the Buccaneers would not let the cold start affect them, as they closed out the final 11 minutes on a 27-12 run and took a 32-23 lead into the break.
ETSU was a totally different team after the first eight minutes, as they hit 13 of its last 18 shots before halftime. The Buccaneers gained their largest lead of the half as Reed brought the Buccaneer faithful to their feet when his monster slam gave ETSU a 32-21 advantage at the 1:48 mark. The run was fueled by a total team effort as seven different Buccaneer players scored during the stretch.
As a club, the Bucs shot 46.9-percent (15-32) from the field during the first stanza; while the Bulldogs were limited to a 33.3-percent clip (8-24). ETSU's tenacious defense caused havoc for Georgia as the Bucs forced 16 turnovers and converted them into 12 points on the other end. The Bucs, who were outsized in the post, shocked the Bulldogs by outscoring the SEC foe in the paint, 16-8, in the first 20 minutes. Seven different ETSU players reached the scoring column with Pigram leading the way at eight points.
The Buccaneers stormed out after the break posting a 12-4 run and extended their lead to 17, 44-27, with 15:42 left in the game. ETSU's lead would reach 20 (49-29), when Pigram nailed a three from the corner at the 14:30 mark. Georgia then used a run of its own, scoring 10 unanswered points which cut the Buccaneer advantage to 49-39. From there, the Bucs answered with a 7-2 run and took control for the rest of the contest. The Bulldogs would get to within 10, 60-50, but ETSU tallied six straight points and took the final bark out of Georgia. A Swader jumper with 42 seconds left in the game gave the Bucs their largest lead of the night, 76-55.
For the game, ETSU finished 27-for-57 from the field (47.4 percent), compared to only 20-of-58 (34.5 percent) by Georgia. The Bucs forced the Bulldogs to cough the ball up 24 times; while ETSU only committed 13 turnovers for the contest. ETSU hit 76-percent (19-25) from the charity stripe and won the battle in the paint, 26-18.
ETSU now advances to the championship side of the bracket and will take on a difficult Saint Mary's team Friday at 10 p.m. EST.
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