JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 1, 2010) - Despite a 16-2 run that pulled the ETSU men's basketball team to within two points in the final two minutes, freshman guard Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) missed a dunk that would have tied the game and the Belmont Bruins used the momentum shift of that moment to pull away for a 74-67 win in Atlantic Sun Conference action Monday evening inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
A crowd of 4,137 fans looked on as the Bruins surged ahead to a 63-47 advantage with 6:23 left in the game. However, the Bucs used a frantic pace and fullcourt defense to force the issue in the final minutes, going on an offensive run that ultimately led to Cooley with the ball in his hands going to the basket. On the play, though, senior guard Jocolby Davis (Meridian, Miss.) appeared to be shoved to the floor, distracting Cooley at the final moment before he dunked the ball.
"People may look at that last play, but overall Sheldon played a good game and did a lot for us during the run in the second half," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team drops to 11-12 overall, 7-5 in A-Sun play, which puts them two games back of the league lead. "We just didn't get the production we need from some guys, and we struggled to get things going offensively early in the second half. We still believe this team has a lot of potential, we just need to get back on the right track."
Both teams battled back and forth in the first half, with the Bucs using an 8-0 run to build a seven point lead at 22-15 with 8:04 left before the intermission. However, the Bruins (13-10, 8-5) answered over the next seven minutes to take a 33-30 edge into the locker room.
In the second half, the Bruins kept converting on the offensive end as the Bucs struggled to find their comfort zone in the halfcourt offense. The result was a Belmont lead that grew to as many as 17 points when an Ian Clark 3-pointer found the bottom of the net with 7:08 left in the game.
However, the Bucs rallied thanks to a 3-pointer from Cooley, five straight points from sophomore forward Isiah Brown (Miami), four straight free throws from junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston), and four final points from Davis on a pair of free throws and a layup. Those scores came as Belmont could only get a pair of free throws from forward Jon House.
For the game, ETSU got a team high 17 points from Brown, while Hubbard finished with his 11th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 boards. Belmont got a game high 18 points from Keaton Belcher, while Mick Hedgepeth posted 16 and Drew Hanlen added 15.
ETSU shot 45 percent from the floor, but just 13 percent from 3-point range. The Bucs held Belmont to 40 percent shooting and 22 percent from beyond the arc. Belmont won the battle of the boards 39-35, and both teams committed 16 turnovers each.
The Bucs must regroup as they head on the road for two straight at Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday, followed by a visit to Stetson on Saturday. For more on the ETSU men's basketball team, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.