CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (March 2, 2005) - East Tennessee State University junior guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) scored a game-high 37 points and matched his career high for 3-point goals with five, leading the Buccaneers to an 87-84 win over Furman in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament Wednesday night at McKenzie Arena.
With the win, ETSU, the No. 5 seed from the North Division, improved to 10-18 on the year and earned a quarterfinal matchup with Chattanooga Thursday night at 6 p.m. The Mocs are the No. 1 seed out of the North Division. Meanwhile, Furman, the No. 3 seed from the South Division, watched its season come to an end as the Paladins record dropped to 16-13 on the season.
"Tonight was a good win for us," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team is the back-to-back defending SoCon Tournament champions. "Thank goodness for Tim Smith. He has really come through for us come tournament time. He was really fun to watch today, but tomorrow will be a very tough game. We played them twice this season and the final result was not what we would have liked, but we will show up tomorrow and compete hard."
The Bucs got off to a quick start, as junior guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) grabbed the opening tip and raced to a layup on the other end. From there, the Bucs led the rest of the first half and built a lead of as many as nine points. While Rhoda sparked the offense initially, Smith powered the ETSU engine the rest of the half, scoring 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor, as the Bucs led 45-40 at the intermission.
"It's tournament time," said Smith, the two-time SoCon Tournament MVP. "It's like the playoffs and everyone is one and done. I don't want to go home yet. I want the three-peat."
In the second half, ETSU continued to build its advantage, leading by as many as 11 points at 72-61 with 9:11 remaining in the contest. However, Furman came charging back behind the play of sophomore guard Robby Bostain and senior forward Ben Earle. Bostain scored all of his 16 points in the second half, while Earle hit three of his four 3-pointers after the break.
With the score 76-74 in favor of the Bucs, Earle's second three of the half gave Furman its only lead of the game at 77-76. It was then that Smith came through again. With the shot clock winding down, Smith seemed to be trapped in the corner and threw up a desperation 3-pointer that found its mark.
While Furman senior Nicholas Sanders tied the game once more at 79-79 with a tip-in at the 2:30 mark, the Bucs went on to outscore Furman 8-5 the rest of the way to take the win. Bostain took a running 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot did not find its mark.
"The story of the game was obviously Tim Smith," Davis said. "He made some unbelievable shots. We gave him some, but he made a lot on his own. I thought the dagger came when there was seven seconds on the shot clock late in the game. He was in the corner with the ball, turned, threw it up, and it went in.
"We had our chance to tie it and score at the end of the game, but it just didn't happen. That's all you can ask for. You have to give credit to East Tennessee State, especially Tim Smith."
For Furman, Bostain led the way with 16 points, while four other Paladins reached double figures. Sophomore Moussa Diagne netted 15 points, junior Tony Carter pitched in 14, Earle collected 12 and sophomore Quan Prowell netted 11.
Along with Smith, Rhoda netted 17 points and four rebounds, while freshman post Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) collected his second career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. In nine postseason games - which includes to first round NCAA Tournament contests -- Smith is averaging 25.3 points per game.