JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 7, 2004) - The East Tennessee State University men's basketball team overcame a poor shooting effort at the foul line and held off a late charge from Appalachian State, as the Buccaneers improved to a perfect 11-0 in Southern Conference play with a 66-63 win over the Mountaineers Saturday in front of 7,049 fans at Memorial Center.
With the win, the Buccaneers improve to 19-4 overall, 11-0 in league play, while Appalachian State drops to 8-15, 3-7.
The Bucs, who led by as many as 16 in the second half, went cold from the foul line late in the game and finished just 19-of-34 from the charity stripe (56 percent). In that time, the Mountaineers managed to take a 61-45 game and make it 66-63 with a 3-pointer by D.J. Thompson at the buzzer.
"Maybe it wasn't our best performance of the year, but at this time of the season a win is a win is a win," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "I was really concerned at halftime, but our guys really came out and played a solid first 10 minutes of the second half. That was the key and really that's where we won the game.
"Obviously, we didn't shoot the ball well from the free throw line and we've got to do a better job there, but the bottom line is the bottom line - we're still 11-0 in conference play."
The Mountaineers took the lead early in the first half when Noah Brown drained a 3-pointer to make it 13-10 with 15:54 left in the half. From there, Appalachian held the lead until the Bucs outscored ASU 14-9 in the final eight minutes of the first half and tied the score at 32-32 by the intermission.
In the second half, the Bucs finally found their game, outscoring the Mountaineers 22-9 over the first 10 minutes to take a 54-38 lead with 10:06 left in the contest. While Appalachian scratched back at times, the Bucs still held a 16-point advantage at 61-45 with 6:36 remaining. However, from there the Mountaineers definitely made a game of things, outscoring the Bucs 18-5 the rest of the way. ASU was helped by the Bucs, who hit just 3-of-10 free throws during that stretch.
For the game, ETSU had four players in double figures led by sophomore guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) with 16 points. Along with Smith, fellow sophomore Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) finished with 14 points, while junior guard James Anthony (Tampa, Fla.) and senior forward Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) collected 11 and 10 points, respectively.
For the Mountaineers, Johnathan Mitchell scored a team-high 11 points, while Chris McFarland, D.J. Thompson and Noah Brown each netted 10 points apiece.
The Bucs will return to action Monday night at Chattanooga, with the tip scheduled for 7 p.m. Appalachian State also returns to play on Monday, when the Mountaineers travel to Charleston, S.C., to face the College of Charleston Cougars at 7 p.m.