Buccaneer men's basketball falls in nailbiter to South Carolina, 71-66
Junior forward Jerald Fields prepares for the opening tip.
Junior forward Jerald Fields prepares for the opening tip.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

From wire reports

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Nov. 24, 2002) -- East Tennessee State held the lead for most of this afternoon's matchup with South Carolina, but foul trouble and clutch shots led to a 71-66 Gamecock victory in the opening game of the Carolina Center in Columbia.

Chuck Eidson scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds, and Carlos Powell added 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Gamecocks (1-0) played in front of 14,922 fans, the school's largest crowd ever for a men's game.

The fans were nervous for most of the game, as the Buccaneers (1-1) led 59-55 after junior forward Jerald Fields' (Gainesville, Fla.)3-pointer with 7:49 left.

But Eidson and Tony Kitchings, who had nine points and 11 rebounds, got back-to-back tip-ins to tie it at 59. After the teams traded buckets, Powell gave South Carolina the lead for good with a 3-pointer that made it 64-61 with four minutes to go.

The Buccaneers would manage two more baskets down the stretch - freshman Tim Smith's (Newport News, Fla.) jumper that made it 64-63 with 3:41 to go, and sophomore Sam Oatman's (Neenah, Wis.) 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left that cut the final margin to 71-66.

Fields led East Tennessee State with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) added 14 points. But Fields, Wade and junior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.), who had 11 points and nine rebounds, would all foul out in a sloppy game that had 37 fouls, 48 turnovers and a double-technical when Wadood and Rolando Howell got tied up under the basket late in the game.

The win means South Carolina is now 4-0 opening new arenas, going back to the 33-5 win over Olympia YMCA in the 1911 opener of the Carolina Gymnasium.

Sunday's game wasn't quite that easy. The Buccaneers, the Southern Conference's Northern Division champions last year, didn't seem the least bit intimidated by the new surroundings.

Junior college transfer Kerbrell Brown got South Carolina's first basket at the Carolina Center - a dunk off a pretty assist by Eidson with 19:46 to go. But the Gamecocks had trouble with the new rims after that, missing their next nine shots as East Tennessee State took a 16-3 lead.

Then Powell came in. The sophomore hit a bucket with 13:44 left in the half and 30 seconds later, got the crowd screaming with a steal and lay-up whistled good after the Buccaneers were called for goaltending.

South Carolina ended the sloppy half - the teams combined for 23 turnovers - on a 38-18 run to lead 41-34 at the break.

East Tennessee State came out pressing in the second half, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes to take a 51-45 lead.

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