FORT MYERS, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2011) - Senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half and the ETSU men's basketball team overcame some uncharacteristic offensive droughts to drop Atlantic Sun Conference foe Florida Gulf Coast 66-59 Friday evening inside Alico Arena.
With the win, the Buccaneers stay one game back of Belmont in the league race, improving to 17-8 overall, 12-2 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, the Eagles dropped to 5-16, 2-10.
"We weren't very good on the offensive end, but we defended hard and that was the difference tonight," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has won 13 of its last 14 games. "Mike wasn't his normal self in the first half, but he helped us in the second half. This is how we've been a lot this year, struggling a little in the first game of a two-game road trip but still winning. Hopefully we can just continue to play well and win."
In a matchup of two of the Atlantic Sun Conference's large, public institutions, the Bucs endured two stretches of offensive futility - one for eight minutes in the first half and another five-minute stretch in the second half. But on the defensive end, the Bucs forced 20 turnovers and cashed those in for a 26-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
Along with Smith, fellow senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) scored 15 points to lead the ETSU attack. Meanwhile, FGCU's Christophe Varidel scored a game-high 19 points, while Anthony Banks and Kevin Cantinol had 11 each.
In the first half, ETSU raced out of the gates with a 12-1 run over the first four minutes of play. However, at that point the Bucs went cold from the field, not scoring for the next eight minutes of game time and allowing FGCU to take a 17-16 lead on Kevin Cantinol's dunk with 6:56 left in the half.
The Bucs regrouped from there and regained the advantage, ultimately leading 30-23 at the break.
In the second half, Smith found his rhythm offensively after scoring just two points in the first half. He netted 11 of the Bucs first 21 points of the second half and helped his team to a 51-34 advantage with 12:04 left in the game.
However, for the second time in the game, ETSU went into an offensive funk and scored just two points over a five-minute period. This allowed the Eagles to cut into the ETSU lead and go on a 14-2 run to make it 53-48 with 6:54 left in the contest.
From there, a 3-pointer from the left wing by Smith and a pair of free throws from Sollazzo made it 60-51, and ETSU went on to go up by as many as 11 with just over two minutes left. While FGCU was able to whittle away at the lead a bit in the final minutes, but finished seven points back at 66-59.
For the game, ETSU shot 42.6 percent from the floor and just 30 percent from 3-point range. Along with forcing 20 turnovers, the Bucs held the Eagles to just 36 percent shooting from the floor and 26.7 percent from 3-point range. FGCU did out-rebound the Bucs 35-31.
ETSU will move on to face Stetson on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Deland, Fla. For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.