JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 23, 2012) – The ETSU men’s basketball team scored an impressive 58 points in the second half of its game with the Belmont Bruins Monday night inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
The problem for the Buccaneers was they scored just 12 in the first half.
Falling behind 27-12 by halftime, the Bucs were unable to mount a serious comeback threat and dropped a critical 82-70 contest to their preeminent Atlantic Sun Conference rivals. With the loss, ETSU (10-9 overall, 5-4 A-Sun) falls two games back of both Belmont and Mercer for first place in the league. The Bruins improved to 14-7, 7-2.
“It was a pitiful first half offensively,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We did some good things defensively in the first half, and I thought holding them to 27 points was pretty darn good. We just didn’t play well enough or score it well enough in the first half, and then defensively in the second half we tried a lot of defenses but just couldn’t stop them.”
The first half was an offensive nightmare for the Bucs, who shot a paltry 16 percent from the field and just 1-of-6 from 3-point range. It was so bad that even though Belmont – a perennially strong 3-point shooting team – had only one made 3-pointer in the first half, the Bruins were still able to build a 15-point lead by the intermission at 27-12.
In fact, both teams struggled so much offensively that the Bruins led just 13-9 with eight minutes left in the first half. However, they went on to outscore the Bucs 14-3 the rest of the half to build a substantial lead.
After the break, the Bruins pounded the ball inside and ultimately outscored the Bucs 48-16 in the paint in hopes of icing the game away. However, the Bucs battled throughout the final 20 minutes, scoring 58 points themselves and pulling to within nine points at 79-70 with 35 seconds left in the contest.
For the game, ETSU shot just 37 percent from the floor while the Bruins connected on 53 percent of its attempts. The Bucs did hold the Bruins to just 26 percent from 3-point range, while ETSU was a solid 40 percent (8-of-20) from outside the arc.
The Bucs did force 19 turnovers on 14 steals, but the poor shooting in the first half was too much to overcome.
ETSU guards Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) and Marcus Dubose (Hartsville, S.C.) each scored a game-high 18 points, while senior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) pitched in 16. For Belmont, five players reached double figures led by senior forward Mick Hedgepeth with 17 points.
The Bucs will return to action on Friday evening, traveling to take on USC Upstate as part of the CSS televised game of the week. That game will tip at 7 p.m.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2011-12 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.