SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Jan. 27, 2012) – Offensive struggles have haunted the ETSU men’s basketball team in recent games, and once again Friday night those same issues sank any chance of a Buccaneers’ victory.
Despite leading the majority of the contest, ETSU looked on as upstart USC Upstate took the lead in the final moments and held on for a 58-54 win over the Buccaneers in Atlantic Sun Conference basketball action inside the Hodge Center.
In front of a regional cable audience on CSS, the Bucs lost for the third straight game, dropping to 10-10 overall, 5-5 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, Upstate improves to 13-9 overall, 7-3 in league action, and remains alone in third place in the league standings.
“We led by five points late and had our chances,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We just didn’t make plays late. Turnovers were a problem for us tonight, and they just beat us on the glass. When you play like that, it’s hard to win.”
During the game, senior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) became just the 34th player in program history to score 1,000 career points, reaching that mark with a layup at the 14:07 mark of the first half. However, that would be the only memorable moment from the contest for ETSU.
In the first half both teams struggled from the outside, as the Bucs and Spartans combined to go 0-of-18 from 3-point range and shot just 21-of-64 (33 percent) from the floor. Even so, ETSU used an early 12-2 run and a 6-2 spurt to close out the half, finishing with a 26-20 advantage at the intermission.
The Bucs’ fullcourt press and match-up zone worked well during the first 20 minutes, forcing 10 turnovers as ETSU picked up eight steals. Meanwhile, USC Upstate owned the paint, out-rebounding the Bucs 26-19 and holding an 11-5 edge in offensive boards.
After the break, Upstate slowly chipped away at the Bucs’ advantage and finally tied the game at 36-36 with 9:51 remaining in the game.
It was a back-and-forth game from there until Upstate scored five straight, highlighted by a Mario Blessing 3-pointer that made it 52-47 in favor of the Spartans with 1:15 left in the game. USC Upstate continued to pour it on at that point, scoring another six points to make it 58-47 with 22 seconds left.
The Spartans out-rebounded the Bucs 47-37, and won despite turning the ball over 17 times on 13 ETSU steals. ETSU shot just 40 percent from the floor.
ETSU was led by 14 points from junior guard Sheldon Cooley (Tampa), while Brown and senior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) netted 11. USC Upstate got a game-high 16 from Jodd Maxey, while teammates Ricardo Glenn and Torrey Craig had 17 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
The Bucs will return home on Monday evening, stepping out of conference to play Colonial Athletic Association member James Madison. Game time is set for 7 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2011-12 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.