JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- East Tennessee State junior guard Cliff Decoster scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Buccaneers in a 75-62 victory over the VMI Keydets at Memorial Center. The win sealed the Southern Conference North Division title the Bucs.
ETSU (17-9, 12-3 SoCon) opened the game on a 20-8 run and held a game-high lead of 15 points at 25-10 following a layup by freshman center Cory Seels with 8:25 remaining in the first half. ETSU shot an even 50 percent (16-32) in the first stanza while holding the Keydets to 36 percent from the floor (10-28). The Buccaneers took a 39-32 lead into the lockerroom.
The Keydets (8-18, 4-11 SoCon) cut the Buccaneer lead to 39-37 with 18:56 remaining in the game after beginning the second half on a 5-0 run. However, the Buccaneers steadily built their lead back to double-digits at 52-41 with 13:14 remaining in the game. The Keydets would not get any closer than nine points.
"I am very, very proud of this team," ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis said. "We accomplished our first goal of the season, which was to win the Southern Conference North Division title. Now we want to go out and earn a share of the Southern Conference Championship."
Decoster scored his 22 points on 10-16 from the floor for the Buccaneers. Senior guard D.J. McDuffie, playing in his final home game, scored a season-high 20 points. Classmate Renaldo Johnson led ETSU with seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks. The third senior, forward Adrian Meeks had a solid game with six points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Keydets were led by Eric Mann, who recorded his 14th double-double of the season and the 17th of his career -- 13 points and 15 rebounds. Richard Bruce (17), Daron Pressley (17) and Nick Richardson (13) also scored in double-digits for VMI.
The win clinches a No. 1 seed in the Mountain Dew Southern Conference Tournament for the Buccaneers. They will receive a first-round bye and will face the winner of game between the No. 4 seed in the North Division and the No. 5 seed in the South Division at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 2 from the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C.
The Buccaneers return to action for their final regular-season game against the Wofford Terriers at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 from Johnson Arena in Spartanburg, S.C. The Keydets host the Appalachian State Mountaineers at 1:00 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Cameron Hall.