JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 29, 2003) - In a battle between two of the best mid-major programs in the country, East Tennessee State overcame an 11-point, second half deficit and rallied for a 67-62 win over UNC Wilmington Saturday afternoon at Memorial Center.
The Bucs - who shot just 27 percent from the floor in the first half - did it with their defense, utilizing their fullcourt defense to create 26 turnovers by the Seahawks (2-1 overall). Senior Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) led the way for the Bucs, picking up his 19th career double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
"I'm really proud of this team for the way we played defensively," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team is 3-1 overall and off to its best start since the 1998-99 Bucs opened the year 4-0. "Our press was the key for us and without it we would have been in trouble. That is a very good basketball team we beat tonight. Wilmington will win a lot of games this year."
The two teams traded baskets to open the game, but with the score tied at 20 with just over six minutes left before halftime, the Seahawks' defense closed down on the Bucs and allowed just one point until the break. That defensive effort allowed Wilmington to go on a 12-1 scoring run and finish the first half up 30-21.
In the second half, however, ETSU relentlessly kept the pressure on UNCW. The Seahawks finally cracked at the 15:58 mark when the Bucs started a 12-2 run that tied the game at 43-43 with 11:03 remaining.
The lead changed hands 10 times from, with the Seahawks' Ed Spencer and ETSU's James Anthony (Tampa, Fla.) trading 3-point baskets twice in the final eight minutes. The second of Spencer's two long-range shots came with 3:20 remaining and gave Wilmington a 60-58 lead, but Anthony answered to make it 61-60 Bucs with 3:01 left.
Wilmington grabbed the lead one last time at the 2:35 mark when Spencer hit 1-of-2 from the foul line to make it 62-61 Wilmington. But from there, the Bucs outscored Wilmington 6-0 thanks with three foul shots from Wadood, one free throw from Anthony and a basket from sophomore guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio).
While Wadood paced the Bucs offensively, Rhoda finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while sophomore guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) finished with 12 points and Anthony added 10. The Bucs picked up the victory despite the fact senior forward Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) fouled out with 8:50 remaining in the game.
For Wilmington, T.J. Carter scored 14 points and Spencer finished with 13.
The Bucs will return to action Wednesday night when they travel across the mountain to face nearby foe UNC Asheville. Tip is set for 7:45 p.m. Meanwhile, UNCW will face Campbell on Monday at 7 p.m.