SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Feb. 19, 2009) - Junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) eclipsed the 1,000-point mark with a free throw late in the game and senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) matched his career high with 32 points as the ETSU men's basketball team snapped a three-game losing streak and remained in the thick of the Atlantic Sun Conference title hunt with a 66-61 win over USC Upstate Thursday night inside G.B. Hodge Center.
Smith, whose 1,000th point came on a critical free throw with 2:06 left in the game, finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and the seventh of his career, as the Buccaneers improved to 18-9 overall, 12-5 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, the Spartans dropped to 7-19, 6-11.
"The incredible thing is Kevin hurt his ankle yesterday in practice and we didn't even know if he was going to play," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "He's the best player in the league and just unbelievably good. And Mike Smith continues to be on a roll and just putting up some great numbers. It wasn't exactly pretty, but we just need a win at this point and we got it."
An unusual first half was highlighted by Tiggs' fantastic play, as the senior scored 23 of ETSU's 29 points and helped power a 17-2 run to close out the first 20 minutes, giving the Bucs a 29-20 advantage at the break.
In the first half, the Bucs shot just 41 percent from the floor and trailed by as many as nine points at 14-5 with 11:25 before the break. However, from there the Spartans did not hit another field goal until the final second of the half and were outscored 24-6 over the final 11 minutes of the half. The Spartans finished the first half shooting just 27 percent from the floor and were 0-of-10 from the 3-point line.
Upstate certainly didn't stay cold in the second half, going on an 11-4 run to make it 33-31 with 16:45 left in the game. The Spartans later tied the game at 48-48 and then took the advantage at 54-53. However, with the score 57-56 in favor of ETSU at the 3:50 mark, the Bucs got a pair of free throws and a layup from Smith. Later on, Tiggs stole a pass and went coast to coast for the layup to power a 6-0 run and make it 63-56 with 52 seconds left in regulation.
For the game, ETSU committed just 11 turnovers and shot a solid 44 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the foul line. Meanwhile, Upstate scored just 61 points on 40 percent shooting for the game and the Spartans were out-rebounded by the Bucs 38-31.
The Bucs now have three 1,000 point scorers on the floor, with Tiggs, Smith and senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) on the same team.
ETSU will return to action on Monday at Campbell, taking on the Camels at 7 p.m.