NASHVILLE (Jan. 23, 2010) - One year ago, the ETSU men's basketball team managed to solve the riddle of Belmont with two wins in three meetings. In the first matchup of the 2009-10 season between the two perennial Atlantic Sun Conference contenders, the confusion returned for the Buccaneers.
Belmont sank 14 3-pointers, shot a blistering 51.9 percent from 3-point range, and connected on an equally impressive 55.1 percent from the field as the Bruins dropped the Bucs 100-89 Saturday afternoon inside the Curb Event Center.
Coupled with Campbell's win over Lipscomb earlier in the day, the Bucs (10-10 overall, 6-3 A-Sun) fall one game back in the A-Sun standings and are tied with Jacksonville for second place with three losses each. Meanwhile, Belmont improved to 11-9 overall, 6-4 in league play.
"Obviously, it was disappointing and I think it was just the struggles on offense that really put pressure on the defense in the first half," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has dropped nine of its last 12 meetings with the Bruins. "The message at halftime was if we can get it to nine we have a chance, and we got it to 12 with two minutes left. The fight was great. The energy was great, and we have a team that's not going to quit. But we just haven't been consistent enough from game to game."
The game could have been ugly as Belmont led by as many as 32 points with 11:44 left in the second half, but the Bucs did battle to the end and used a commendable effort in the final four minutes to make it a respectable 11-point loss.
Belmont's 100 points was the most scored by an ETSU opponent all season. The previous high was 85 points against Arkansas and UAB.
While ETSU scored a season high 67 second half points, the first half was another Belmont nightmare for the Bucs, whose trapping zone defense was shredded for eight 3-pointers by the Bruins in the first 20 minutes of play. In all, Belmont shot 53.3 percent from beyond the arc, 52.4 percent from the field, and built a lead of as many as 23 points before going to the halftime break up 44-22.
ETSU's offense was as atrocious as the defense in the first half, as the Bucs shot just 26.9 percent from the field and a dismal 42.9 percent from the foul line. On the boards it wasn't much better for ETSU, as Belmont outboarded the Bucs 22-13.
For the game, Belmont held a 42-28 edge on the boards but committed 18 turnovers. The Bruins also set school records for free throws attempted (50) and free throw makes (32).
ETSU shot 46 percent for the game and 41 percent from 3-point range, and only turned the ball over nine times.
The Bucs were led offensively by junior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) with 21 points, while junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) added 18, freshman guard Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) netted 17 and junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) pitched in 13.
Belmont's freshman guard Ian Clark led the way with a game-high 24 points, while Mick Hedgepeth had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan Campbell netted 14 and Drew Hanlen scored 13.
ETSU will return to action Wednesday night as the Bucs begin a three-game home stand with first place Campbell inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center at 7 p.m. The team will follow that game up with matchups with Lipscomb (Jan. 30) and Belmont (Feb. 1).
For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.