BALTIMORE (Nov. 19, 2009) - With the departures of graduated All-Atlantic Sun Conference players Courtney Pigram and Kevin Tiggs, and the knee injury that has sidelined senior guard and preseason all league pick Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.), the deck has been stacked against the ETSU men's basketball team in the early going this year.
This was once again evident Thursday night against the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Morgan State.
Shooting just 29 percent from the field and struggling offensively throughout the game, the Buccaneers trailed the Bears by as many as 22 points and ultimately dropped its second straight game 72-61 inside the Hill Field House. The Bucs (1-2) now have to regroup and prep for defending Big East Conference champion Louisville on Saturday at 4 p.m.
"We just didn't play well and it was one of those nights," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "We knew this was going to be a tough stretch and it's proving to be just that. Missing Mike right now is tough, and when you take him off our team that hurts. We already had to replace guys like Courtney and Kevin, so that is just making it even harder. But no excuses though, we just have to play better."
Despite the loss, a bright spot was once again the play of junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston), who finished with his second straight double-double thanks to a 19-point, 10-rebound effort. Along with Hubbard, junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) added 16 points and was the only other ETSU player in double figures.
Meanwhile, Morgan State's Reggie Holmes was impressive, posting a career high 30 points while teammate Rodney Stokes had 12.
The ETSU offense carried over its offensive struggles from the second half of the Chattanooga game and made just five field goals in the first 20 minutes against the Bears. Things weren't much better at the foul line, as the Bucs hit on just 12-of-21 shots at the charity stripe for a 57 percent clip.
However, even with those struggles, the Bucs battled back from a deficit of as many as 18 points midway through the half to make it a 34-24 game at the break.
Looking for a rally in the second half, the Bucs could just never make a move and watched the Bears pull away to a 22-point edge at 64-42 with 7:24 left in the game. To its credit, ETSU battled to the end and was able to get to within 11 by the end of the game.