JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2003) - Head coach Ed DeChellis' game plan called for East Tennessee State to pound Virginia Military in the paint and under the basket. Apparently, the Buccaneers were attentive pupils this week in practice.
Setting a career-high in scoring for the second time in three games, junior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) scored a team-high 29 points and fellow junior Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) added 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds as the Bucs snapped a two-game Southern Conference skid with a 93-76 league victory over the Keydets Tuesday night in front of 3,329 fans at Memorial Center.
With the win, ETSU improved to 12-8 overall, 6-3 in Southern Conference play, while VMI fell to 6-14, 1-8. The victory allowed the Bucs to stay tied for second place with Davidson in the SoCon's North Division.
"The game plan was to get the ball to me and Jerald," said Wadood, who enjoyed his fifth 20-point game of the year and the eighth of his career. "In our first meeting with these guys we killed them in the post in the second half, so coach emphasized that all week.
"We wanted to start on them early."
Indeed, in the Bucs earlier meeting with VMI - a hard-fought 67-62 victory for ETSU back on Jan. 18 - the Keydets took advantage of ETSU's poor perimeter shooting before halftime and trailed just 24-23 at Cameron Hall in Lexington, Va.
However, after the break the Bucs continuously forced the ball inside and the Keydets were forced to either give up easy buckets or foul.
Instead of waiting until the second half on Tuesday, the Bucs' perimeter players continuously passed up open looks at the basket in favor of dropping the ball off inside to players like Wadood, Fields and freshman Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio), who made the Keydets pay with layup after layup.
Despite the effective game plan, VMI still hung close in the first half and trailed just 45-40 thanks mostly in part to the play of junior Radee Skipworth. The 6-foot-6 guard scored a game-high 33 points, setting a new career high and eclipsing the 1,000 point mark for his career.
Skipworth now has 1,010 points for his career and is the 29th player in VMI history to reach that scoring milestone.
Yet Skipworth's efforts were not enough, as teammate Richard Little was the only other VMI player to reach double figures with 10 points. In the meantime, the Bucs methodically built their lead over the next 15 minutes of play and led by as many as 21 points at 82-61 with 5:04 left in the game.
Fields, who also finished the game with four blocks and two steals, said the Bucs needed this victory to get an emotional lift after back-to-back losses to Davidson and Chattanooga.
"It was a great win for us because we hope it will get our confidence back," Fields said. Along with Fields and Wadood - who also pitched in four blocks, four assists and two steals to go along with his 29 points - the Bucs got 15 points from freshman guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) and 11 from Rhoda.
ETSU will be back in action Saturday night when they travel to Statesboro, Ga., to face SoCon South Division foe Georgia Southern. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.