JOHNSON CITY, Tenn.(Feb. 10, 2003) - In each of East Tennessee State's last two games, Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) had eclipsed his season high for scoring. Against Western Carolina, Fields went a step further.
The 6-foot-7, 270-pound junior forward tore through the Catamounts' interior defense to net another season-high and a new career-high for scoring, collecting 30 points as the Buccaneers stayed in the hunt for the Southern Conference North Division championship with an 89-71 victory over Western Carolina in front of 3,716 fans Monday night at Memorial Center.
"I felt good at the start of the game and just took it from there," said Fields, whose 30 points came via a 12-of-18 effort from the field and a 6-of-7 clip at the free throw line. "I haven't had a game like that since AAU ball or high school. It feels good to play like this, but I couldn't have done it without help from me teammates."
Indeed, the Bucs (13-9 overall, 7-4 SoCon) got an extra dose of scoring thanks to a 21-point effort from true freshman guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.), as well 14 points from true freshman guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) and 11 points courtesy of sophomore guard James Anthony (Brandon, Fla.). The 20-point effort for Smith was his second in as many games, as he netted a team-high 25 points last weekend against Georgia Southern.
Early on, Western Carolina (7-15, 4-7) kept it close thanks to the play of sophomore forward Kevin Martin and guard Emre Atsur. Martin became the 33rd player in Western Carolina history to reach 1,000 career points during the game, finishing with a team-high 21 points. Meanwhile, Atsur netted a career-high 20 points as the Catamounts trailed 44-36 at haltime and actually cut ETSU's lead to just three points at 50-47 with 16:53 left in the second half.
However, over the next three minutes, the Bucs went on a 10-0 run to make the score 60-47 with 13:43 left in the game. The Catamounts could not make a significant run of their own the rest of the way and the Bucs were able to comfortably build their winning margin of 18 points.
Other players that put together solid outings included ETSU's Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) and Western Carolina's Kori Hatcher. Wadood finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals, while Hatcher was the only other Western Carolina player in reach double figures with 11 points.
The Bucs must now turn their attention to second-place Davidson, a team they trail by one game in the North Division standings. Fields said the Bucs certainly need a win when the two teams meet Saturday night at Belk Arena on the campus of Davidson University. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
"That's a huge game for us," said Fields, who along with his 30 points collected nine rebounds and five steals in 39 minutes of play. "We have to get a win and get back in the running for the division championship."