MACON, Ga. (Jan. 3, 2011) - ETSU junior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) became the hero, but not until a desperation, half-court shot by the Mercer Bears inexplicably rolled off the back of the rim, giving the Buccaneers a 62-61 win in Atlantic Sun Conference play Monday evening inside the University Center.
The final seconds played out like a movie scene, as a drawn charge by sophomore post Lukas Poderis (Tampa) gave the Bucs the ball with just 11.3 seconds left and ETSU trailing 61-60. Sollazzo then took over, driving the length of the court, going down the baseline, and making an awkward, hooked bank shot to make it 62-61 with 3.7 seconds left.
Mercer then inbounded the ball and their freshman guard Langston Hall heaved a half-court shot at the buzzer. The ball hit the front of the rim, bounced high in the air, came down to bounce twice on the back bracket and somehow managed to not fall in, rolling off to the left as the buzzer sounded.
Making the win even more remarkable, the Bucs were playing the final two and a half minutes without junior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.), sophomore forward J.C. Ward (Marietta, Ga.), and senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.). All three had fouled out of the game, marking the first time since Nov. 28, 2007 against Chattanooga that the Bucs had that many players out of the contest.
"The plays by Lukas and Adam were unbelievable, and somehow that last shot didn't go in," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 7-7 overall, 2-1 in league play. "I really liked the resilience of our team tonight to be out there battling without three of our key guys. We just didn't play well offensively tonight, and to escape with a win is big."
Sollazzo finished with 15 points, while Smith posted a game-high 19 and fellow senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) finished with 16. For Mercer (3-10 overall, 1-2 A-Sun), forward Brian Mills had a team-high 18, Hall pitched in 13, and Brandon Moore had 12.
The Bucs continued to struggle offensively in the early going, as they fell behind by a score of 14-4 with just under 12 minutes left before the intermission. Despite those struggles, ETSU used a 6-0 run midway through the half and a basket by Sollazzo in the final five seconds to cut the deficit to 27-25 at the break.
In the second half, the Bucs tied the game twice in the opening two minutes, but later fell behind by seven at 40-33 following a Bears' streak of four straight 3-pointers. ETSU finally came to life in a big way at that point, putting together a 13-1 run that was capped by the first two baskets of the night for senior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.), making it 46-41 with just over eight minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Bears answered with a 15-5 offensive burst thanks to 12 points from senior forward Brian Mills, and led 56-51 with less than three minutes to go in the game. Without Brown, Ward and Smith, the Bucs still managed to scrape back into it in the final minutes to set up Sollazzo's heroics.
The Bucs will now continue on the road to face Kennesaw State Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.