STARKVILLE, Miss. (Dec. 11, 2010) - In a game dominated by the ETSU men's basketball team on the boards, it was the Buccaneers' final offensive rebound that truly made the difference Saturday night in a 63-62 win over Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State inside the Humphrey Coliseum.
After senior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) missed a potential game-tying free throw with 27 seconds left and the Bucs trailing 62-61, junior forward Curtis Wilkinson (Bude, Miss.) tapped the ball out to senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester), giving the Bucs another chance to take the lead. After a timeout by ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, Williams made good on the opportunity, driving the lane for a banked shot that found the bottom of the net and gave ETSU the one-point edge.
The Bulldogs, who fell to 4-2 on the year, missed on their final scoring opportunity as Kodi Augustus' baseline attempt missed the mark and Tubbs secured the rebound.
"I was really proud of the effort from our guys tonight," said Bartow, whose team improved to 4-4 on the season and snapped a two-game losing skid with the win. "The last two days we really started from scratch and tried to change the mindset of both our players and coaches. We put a focus on leadership and really challenged everyone to get better.
"I think we responded well, especially physically against SEC athletes. Out-rebounding them like that was the stat of the game."
While Williams had the game-winner and finished with 18 points, fellow senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) posted a team-high 20 points to go along with a game-high nine boards in the victory. Meanwhile, Wilkinson - who was playing in front of his family and friends from Bude, Miss. - started the game and finished with seven points and five rebounds.
ETSU shot 50 percent from both the field and the 3-point line, and enjoyed a 35-22 edge on the boards for the game. More impressive, the Bucs held a 15-9 edge on the offensive glass.
The Bucs' effort in the first half was much improved compared to its last two outings. ETSU basically traded baskets with the Bulldogs throughout the first 20 minutes, trailing by no more than six points at any time in the first half and leading on two different occasions.
Mississippi State had led much of the first half until the Bucs took the lead at 19-18 on a Smith 3-pointer with 9:31 remaining on the clock. After the Bucs took their second lead of the game at 30-29, the Bulldogs would answer once more and regain a six-point edge at 38-32 with 44 seconds left, thanks mainly to MSU guard Ravern Johnson, who scored seven straight points to power the 9-2 offensive spurt.
Smith led the way for ETSU with 11 points in the first half, which included another 3-pointer in the final seconds to make it 38-35 at the break. ETSU shot 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from the 3-point line in the first half, while also holding a 14-9 edge on the boards.
After the break, both teams battled through a second half that included eight ties and seven lead changes. No team led by more than four points in the half, and game stayed within a two-point range for the final seven minutes on the clock.
For Mississippi State, Johnson finished with a game-high 23 points, while Augustus added 10.
The Bucs will return to the state of Mississippi to take on Ole Miss next Saturday. Game time is set for 4 p.m. in Oxford. For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.