JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2011) - Relinquishing a 14-point halftime lead, the ETSU men's basketball team made clutch plays and hit critical free throws down the stretch to escape with a 66-61 win over North Florida in Atlantic Sun Conference action Thursday evening inside the UNF Arena.
Trailing 57-53 with just over two minutes left in the game, ETSU senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) hit six-straight free throws in the final two minutes, while a critical steal and lay-up from junior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) made the difference in the final seconds.
"Give North Florida credit, they really out-played us, out-coached us, and out-scrapped us in the second half," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "But our guys just made plays when we really needed them down the stretch. I can't say enough about the plays our guys came up with in the final couple minutes."
With the win, the Bucs picked up their seventh straight victory and improved to 11-7 overall, 6-1 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, UNF dropped to 5-12, 2-4.
Williams and fellow senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) finished with a game-high 19 points each, while junior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) pitched in 10 points and 12 rebounds in a double-double effort.
The Bucs sprinted out of the gates in the early going, driving to the basket for some early scores and manufacturing a 9-0 run to open the game. At that point, UNF answered over the next five minutes of play to make it 15-13 with 11:28 remaining, but ETSU responded to that challenge with an 11-0 run to take a 13-point lead at 26-13 with less than eight minutes left on the clock.
ETSU ultimately built its edge to 34-20 at halftime, shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first half and forcing UNF into 10 turnovers on six steals. The Bucs' defense also held the Ospreys to just 29 percent shooting from the floor, including a 15 percent clip from beyond the 3-point arc.
North Florida opened the second half with a renewed sense of urgency and produced in a big way, stifling the Bucs' offensive attack and outscoring ETSU 26-11 to take the lead at 46-45 with 5:58 left in the game. The two teams traded the advantage back-and-forth multiple times from there, but North Florida was left leading 57-53 with 2:15 on the clock.
From there, Smith hit a foul shot, followed by a pair of offensive rebounds from Brown that led to lay-up from J.C. Ward (Marietta, Ga.) to make it 57-56. After a UNF miss, Williams grabbed an important defensive rebound and was fouled, hitting both free throws and giving the Bucs the edge at 58-57. A UNF turnover, a steal by Sollazzo and his resulting lay-up made it 60-57. Sollazzo was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.
The Ospreys answered with a free throw by Jimmy Williams, but another pair of makes from Micah Williams with 12.6 seconds left made it 62-58. UNF was not done though, as a 3-pointer by Jerron Granberry brought the score to 62-61 with four seconds left. Micah Williams hit two more free throws at that point to basically icing the game as the UNF inbounds pass did not find its mark.
For the game, UNF out-rebounded the Bucs 34-27 and held a 19-12 edge on second chance points. ETSU shot 47 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the foul line for the game.
The Bucs will now turn their attention to an important meeting with Jacksonville at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday. For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.