DELAND, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2011) - The ETSU men's basketball team did not score for the final 5:38 of the game, giving up an 11-point lead over that time frame and watching as Stetson's Corey Walden sank a layup with 5.5 seconds left, handing the Hatters a 55-54 upset win over the Buccaneers in Atlantic Sun Conference play Sunday afternoon at the Edmunds Center.
The Bucs had one last chance at the end, but sophomore Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) was called for an offensive foul as he ran down the lane for a potential game-winner of his own. With the loss, the Bucs - who have won 13 of their last 15 games - dropped to 17-9 overall, 12-3 in A-Sun play and fell two games back of Belmont for the league lead. Meanwhile, Stetson improves to 7-18, 5-9.
"It's very disappointing, especially in a close game," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "To win close games you have to do three things well - execute well offensively, hit free throws and make stops. We were unable to do any of those three things tonight."
As in past Stetson games, the Hatters attempted to slow down the pace and make it an ugly contest, utilizing an unorthodox 2-1-2 zone to stymie the Bucs. It worked early on, but a pair of 3-pointers from senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) and a 12-3 run late in the second half helped ETSU to a 27-13 edge with 2:38 left before the intermission.
The Bucs' advantage at the break was ultimately 27-17, and the real story for the first 20 minutes was ETSU's defensive effort, which held Stetson to just 17 points. It matched the lowest point total for an ETSU opponent this season, and was the same as when the Bucs met the Hatters back on Jan. 10.
Stetson shot just 27 percent in the first half and was out-rebounded by the Bucs, 20-12. Smith scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes to lead all scorers at that point.
After the break, it was a different story.
Stetson put together an 11-2 run in the early going to cut the Bucs' lead to just 34-30 with 14:50 left. However, from there ETSU responded thanks to a quick five points from senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) and a 9-0 run ensued to make it 43-30 with 12:08 remaining.
Stetson did not go away, though, and was able to make another significant run at the Bucs, methodically cutting the ETSU lead down to just one at 54-53 on a free throw by Graeme Radford with 36.5 seconds left on the clock.
Smith was fouled after Radford missed his second of two attempts at the line, but missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving Walden his chance to become the hero.
For the game, ETSU was led by Williams' 15 second-half points, while Smith finished with 14. Junior Isiah Brown (Miami) and sophomore Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) added 10 apiece in the loss.
Stetson got 15 from Walden, while Joel Naburgs netted 13 and Ridge Graham posted 10.
ETSU shot 43 percent from the floor, compared to Stetson's 39 percent clip, and the Bucs also held a 38-32 advantage on the glass. However, Stetson did force 17 turnovers by ETSU and the Bucs shot just 47 percent at the foul line (7-of-15).
The Bucs will return home for a pair of games next weekend, beginning with a matchup against Jacksonville on Friday evening at 7 p.m. That game will air on regional cable courtesy of CSS. The Bucs then faceoff with North Florida on Sunday at 4 p.m., and will celebrate Senior Day at that game.
For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.