NASHVILLE (March 4, 2009) - The seventh-seeded Stetson Hatters gave the ETSU men's basketball team a scare, but senior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) scored a career-high 37 points and junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) posted his ninth career double-double to give the Buccaneers a 88-76 win in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship quarterfinals Wednesday night inside Allen Arena on the campus of Lipscomb University.
With the win, ETSU (21-10 overall) advances to Friday night's semifinals to face the winner of Thursday's Belmont-Mercer quarterfinal matchup.
"What more can you say about Kevin Tiggs. He just continues to play at a high level," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "To step up and score a career high 37 says something about how much he wants to compete. And Mike Smith again with a double-double was huge for us."
The first half was dominated by Tiggs, as the first team All A-Sun pick went off for 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor. His efforts were enough to stake the Bucs to a 37-33 halftime lead, but the advantage could have been more if not for Stetson's strong shooting from beyond the arc. The Hatters hit 6-of-13 long range bombs and were 5-of-6 from the foul line to keep the Bucs within reach at the break.
In the second half, ETSU's fullcourt press finally began to take a toll on the Hatters, as the Bucs opened on a 19-7 run in the first six minutes and built its lead to 56-40 with just over 14 minutes left in regulation. However, Stetson responded with an 8-0 burst of its own to get the game back to single digits at 56-48 with 11 minutes remaining.
Stetson later made the game 64-59 on an A.J. Smith 3-pointer from the wing with 7:20 left, but that would be as close as the Hatters would get the rest of the game as ETSU outscored them 26-17 the rest of the way.
While Tiggs scored 37, Smith posted 19 points and 11 rebounds, and senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) added 15. Pigram's 15 moved with to 1,987 points for his career, which moved him to No. 2 on the A-Sun's all-time scoring list and just one point shy of former ETSU great Keith "Mister" Jennings for third place on the Bucs scoring list. For Stetson, A.J. Smith led the way with 24 points, while Tim Lang added 18, Mark Lohuis pitched in 11 and Garfield Blair posted 10.
For more on the Buccaneers as they advance through the A-Sun championships, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.