JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 24, 2003) - Only two days removed from climbing into a tie for first place in the Southern Conference North Division standings, the East Tennessee State men's basketball team fell victim to poor second-half shooting and dropped an 84-71 contest to the Furman Paladins Monday night at Memorial Center.
A crowd of 4,013 saw Furman forward Karim Souchu score a career-high 32 points as the Bucs (16-10 overall, 10-5 SoCon) lost at home for only the second time this season. In the second half, Furman used an 18-of-32 shooting clip (56 percent) from the floor, while holding the Bucs to just 8-of-28 from the field (56 percent) to secure the victory.
"In the second half, we just couldn't make a basket to save our souls," said ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis. "When that happens it makes things tough."
Indeed, the second half collapse proved costly.
Leading 42-33 at the intermission, ETSU built a lead of as many as 10 points after freshman guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) sank a pair of free throws to make it 51-41 with 17:35 left in the game. However, at that point Furman's offense took fire while the Bucs - who shot 17-of-32 in the first half for a 53 percent shooting percentage - cooled off significantly.
The Paladins (13-16, 7-8) proceeded to outscore ETSU 31-10 over the next 12 minutes to make the score 70-61 with 4:59 left in the game. The Bucs managed one last charge over the next few possessions, pulling to within five at 72-67 with 3:45 remaining. However, Furman closed out the contest on a 12-4 offensive run to ice the game.
Souchu's game-high 32 points and nine rebounds led Furman, while teammate Guilherme Da Luz was the only other Paladin player to reach double figures with 12 points.
For the Bucs, true freshman guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) led the way with 19 points, while junior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) scored 16. Junior forward Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) finished with a double-double thanks to 11 points and 11 rebounds, despite fouling out of the game with 6:11 remaining in the game.
ETSU now turns its attention to a critical game with Appalachian State at 4 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Center. The No. 2 seed in the North Division and a bye in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament will be on the line. In addition, a loss by Davidson in tonight's game with College of Charleston means the Bucs will again be playing for a share of the division championship.
"It's still not as easy as it sounds and I think that was obvious tonight," DeChellis said. "We're going to try to give the guys a couple days off to get their legs back and then we'll go back to practice hard in preparation for Appalachian State.
"We'll have to play better than we did tonight to finish where we'd like."