JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 20, 2003) - Despite a somewhat sluggish start, the East Tennessee State University men's basketball team used a 19-point offensive run early in the first half to take an 81-55 victory over UVa.-Wise Saturday afternoon at Memorial Center. With the win, the Buccaneers improve to 7-2 on the season, their best start since the 1991-92 campaign.
"It's a win," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "It was a bit uninspired, but bottom line, after the game I didn't get too upset with the team. It wasn't the prettiest win in the world, but now we can move on and prepare for our trip to Hawaii."
Indeed, the Bucs will take a quick two-day break to visit family for the Christmas holiday and then travel to Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic Dec. 27-30. But before the Bucs could pack up and head home, UVa.-Wise was standing in the way.
After four minutes of play against the Cavaliers, the Bucs led by a score of just 6-3. That left Bartow looking for a spark off the bench and he quickly inserted a completely new lineup. That group - which included guard Michael Tolliver (Bremo Bluff, Va.), guard Sam Oatman (Neenah, Wis.), guard Aaron Scott (Houma, La.), forward Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) and guard Travis Strong (Memphis, Tenn.) - promptly put together a 19-0 run and the Bucs led 25-3 with just under nine minutes left in the game.
Of those five players, Nuckles and Scott were the most impressive on this day. Nuckles finished with 16 points and a career-high three 3-point goals and three blocks. Meanwhile, Scott set career highs for foul shots (5), assists (3) and blocks (3), while scoring 10 points. Other Bucs in double figures on the night included senior forward Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) with 12 points and freshman guard Travis Strong (Memphis, Tenn.) with 10 points.
"Brad Nuckles is really starting to emerge and Aaron Scott is someone who were are going to start hearing more and more from," Bartow said. "Both of those guys played outstanding today."
While Wise managed to trade baskets with the Bucs the rest of the first half, they still trailed 40-22 at the break. In the second half, ETSU's starting lineup seemed reenergized and used a fullcourt defense to manufacture a 13-2 run to open the half. The Bucs led 53-24 with 16:53 remaining in the game, but the Cavaliers put together their own 10-2 run with just over six minutes left in the game to cut the lead to 75-51.
From there, ETSU cruised to the victory and will now focus on Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, its first opponent Dec. 27 at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. Tipoff of that game is scheduled for 10 p.m. (EST).
For Wise, Brandon Green led the way with 17 points, while Bobby Hedrick and Dieontea Stewart each added 14 points.
The Bucs will not play at Memorial Center again until Jan. 12 when they will face non-league foe Union College. ETSU will return to the continental United States on Jan. 30 and will return to Southern Conference action at Furman on Feb. 5.