GREENSBORO, N.C. - Senior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) led East Tennessee State to an emotional 72-68 victory over UNC Greensboro Saturday night in front a boisterous crowd in Fleming Gymnasium.
Wadood scored a game-high 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to pick up his 22nd career double-double, as the Bucs narrowly escaped with another down-to-the-wire win.
"This was very similar to the Furman game," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team dropped Furman 69-68 on a last-second shot by sophomore guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) on Monday. "We're very fortunate to be going home with a win. I said before the game that Greensboro's record was deceiving and they proved that."
With the win, ETSU improves to 10-4 on the season and 3-0 in Southern Conference play. UNCG slips to 4-9 overall and 1-2 in league play. The loss extends the Spartans' losing skid to seven games.
Ricky Hickman connected on a pair of free throws to give UNCG a 2-0 lead to open the game. ETSU then reeled off eight consecutive points before a Ronnie Burrell halted the Buccaneer run. The Spartans then cut the lead to one, 8-7, on a Jay Joseph layup, but the Bucs countered with a 10-0 run, capped off by a 3-pointer by Zakee Wadood, to go up 19-7 at the 10:56 mark.
A Jay Joseph 3-pointer from the top of the key cut the Bucs' lead to four, 30-26, with 3:40 left in the half. After an ETSU bucket, Ray Bristow buried a 3-pointer from 24-feet to bring the Spartans to within three, 32-29. On the next possession, Ronnie Taylor hit a layup in traffic to cut the lead to one, 32-31.
ETSU maintained the lead and took a 32-31 lead into the intermission. The Bucs shot 47 percent from the field in the opening stanza compared to UNCG's 37 percent, and held a slim 19-18 advantage on the glass.
A pair of James Anthony (Tampa, Fla.) 3-pointers sandwiched a Dwon Clifton layup to give the Buccaneers a 38-33 lead early in the second half. With the Bucs clinging to a 44-43 lead, Anthony was called for an intentional foul on a UNCG fast break. Joseph buried both free throws giving the Spartans' their first lead, 45-44, since it jumped out 2-0 to open the game. Taylor then hit a jumper from the right baseline to give the Spartans' a 47-44 lead. Anthony countered with his third 3-pointer of the half to tie the score for just the second time in the game. Wadood's fast break layup gave the Bucs' back the lead, 49-47. The Spartans then went on a 10-0 run capped off by an emphatic Ronnie Burrell dunk to take a 57-49.
The Bucs countered with an 8-0 run to tie the game 57-57 at the 7:25 mark when Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) hit a five-footer from the left side. Joseph drained a 3-pointer on an inbounds play to put the Spartans back up, 60-57. Wadood tied the game for the fourth time when he hit 1-of-2 free throws to even the score at 65-65. The score was then tied 68-68 before Ben Rhoda hit a layup in transition to put the Bucs up 70-68 with under one minute left in regulation. The Spartans had one last possession, but Joseph's 3-point attempt from the right win just missed. Wadood hauled in the rebound and was immediately fouled. He promptly hit both free throws to set the final score.
In addition to Wadood's 21 points, Anthony added a career-high 17 points on three 3-pointers. Rhoda scored 12 points, while Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Ronnie Taylor paced the Spartans' attack wtih 16 points and eight assists. Ronnie Burrell and Jay Joseph each scored 14 points, while Ray Bristow added 11 off the bench.
The Spartans will return to action again Tuesday, January 13, at home against the College of Charleston. Tip-off is set for 7 pm, and the game will be televised live on CSS. ETSU returns home to host Union College on Monday, January 12.