JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 23, 2011) - Overcoming a 12-point, first-half deficit to tie the game in the second half and trail by only two points with six minutes left, the ETSU men's basketball team looked on as the Belmont Bruins made critical baskets down the stretch and defensive stops when they needed them to pull away with a 72-62 win in Atlantic Sun Conference play Sunday evening inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
With the loss, the Buccaneers watched their nine-game winning streak come to an end and dropped to 13-8 overall, 8-2 in A-Sun action - two games back of Belmont in the league standings. Meanwhile, the Bruins continue an impressive run, improving to 18-3 overall, 10-0 in league play.
"It's a tough loss for us, but I was proud of our guys and the fight we had," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "Belmont is a really good team, but right now we have to refocus on our next one and get ready for Upstate on Tuesday night. This was a big one emotionally and that makes the next one that much more dangerous."
The Bucs played without the services of its best on-ball, man-to-man defender, as senior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) missed the game after suffering an ankle injury against Lipscomb two days earlier. In Tubbs' absence, Belmont took advantage by shooting 46 percent from the floor and an even more impressive 46 percent from 3-point range.
In addition, the Bruins enjoyed a gaudy 29-2 edge in points off the bench.
The Bucs got a game-high 22 points from senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester), while fellow senior Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) and junior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) scored 11 apiece. ETSU also got 10 points from sophomore guard Sheldon Cooley (Tampa, Fla.)
For Belmont, Jon House led the way with a team-high 17 points and six assists, while Ian Clark netted 14 and Jordan Campbell scored 12.
In the first half, the game stood tied at 11-11 before the Bruins built a 12-point edge at 32-20 with four minutes left before the break. ETSU battled back to cut that deficit to eight at the break, 37-29.
After the intermission, the Bucs outscored the Bruins 23-15 over the first 11 minute of play to tie the game at 52-52. Belmont held a 60-58 lead with 6:33 left on the clock before going on a 12-4 run to close out the win.
The Bucs, who remain in sole possession of second place in the A-Sun standings, will return to action Tuesday evening against USC Upstate inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Belmont will travel to face nearby rival Lipscomb in Nashville.
For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.