JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 2, 2014) – The ETSU men’s basketball team proved Sunday afternoon that it’s not how a team starts a game, but how it finishes that can make the difference in winning and losing.
After scoring just four points over the first 10 minutes of the game, the Buccaneers found their shooting touch from there, scoring 82 points over the final 30 minutes of play to drop Kennesaw State 86-73 in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
Sophomore forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) led the way for the Bucs with a team-high 19 points, as the Bucs had a total of five players reach double figures on their way to improving to 12-11 overall, 5-5 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, the Owls dropped to 4-20, 1-10.
“The first half we were just awful, but thankfully we were better in the second half,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We made more plays in the second half, and Lester was really good for us today. It’s nice to get another win.”
Along with Wilson, the Bucs got 16 points apiece from junior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) and senior forward Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (Georgetown, S.C.), while freshman guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) and junior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) scored 14 and 11, respectively.
The game got off to an ugly start for the Bucs, who missed their first six shots and committed four turnovers to start the contest. In fact, ETSU had just one made field goal over the first 10 minutes of play and trailed by as many as 12 points at 18-6 with 9:56 left in the half.
Fortunately for the Bucs, Kennesaw State’s play was equally suspect, as the Owls committed 17 personal fouls in the first half, which resulted in a 17-of-22 clip from the free throw line for ETSU. That number itself – along with an 11-2 run to close out the first half – helped the Bucs ultimately tie the game at 35-35 by the intermission.
After the break, ETSU struggled to take the lead but managed to grab the advantage at 55-52 with just over 11 minutes to play. At that point, a scuffle between ETSU forward Lukas Poderis (Port Richey, Fla.) and KSU forward Andrew Osemhen led to both players receiving technical fouls and being ejected from the game.
The Bucs reacted well to the drama, promptly going on a 20-6 run to their largest lead of the game at 75-58 with seven minutes left. KSU was not able to get any closer than eight the rest of the way.
Kennesaw State was led by senior guard Delbert Love’s game-high 22 points, who also eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career during the game.
For the game, ETSU shot 42 percent from the floor (51 percent in the second half), while hitting 29-of-34 free throws (85 percent). The Bucs also committed just nine turnovers, while KSU gave up the ball 17 times.
The Bucs will return to action on the road Thursday night at Northern Kentucky, with tip set for 7 p.m. in Highland Heights, Ky. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2013-14 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.