Bucs break through with win over Tennessee Tech, 65-54
Bucs break through with win over Tennessee Tech, 65-54
Friday, December 10, 2004

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 10, 2004) - Relying on their best defensive effort of the season, the East Tennessee State Buccaneers held visiting Tennessee Tech to just 32 percent shooting en route to a 65-54 win in non-conference basketball action at Memorial Center.


A crowd of 5,830 watched as the Bucs took a 28-24 halftime lead and then used a solid 2-3 zone defense to stymie the Golden Eagles' offensive efforts. Sophomore Travis Strong (Memphis, Tenn.) came off the bench to lead the ETSU offense, scoring a team-high 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor - including a 4-of-6 clip from 3-point range.


"It's a good win and we just needed it badly," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 3-5 on the season. "Overall, it was a much better effort defensively. Anytime you hold a team to 54 points and they shoot just 32 percent you'll take it. We played some man-to-man defense early, but we decided to go to the zone later and it worked well."


Tennessee Tech (3-4), which entered the game averaging 82.0 points per contest, stayed with the Bucs until the midway point of the first half, as the game was tied 18-18 with just over nine minutes left before the intermission. From there, the Bucs built a lead of as many as 10 points at 28-18 with 3:48 left before the break, but Tennessee Tech rallied to pull within four at 28-24 at halftime.


In the second half, the Golden Eagles stayed close and trailed just 39-37 with 11:28 to go in the game. However, from there the Bucs' defensive efforts paid off again with stop after stop, and ETSU managed to build an eight-point lead at 47-39 with just over eight minutes remaining. ETSU cushioned the lead to as many as 13 late in the game and held on for the win.


            While Strong led the Bucs offensively with season highs for points (14), field goals (4), and 3-point field goals (4), he was joined in double figures by teammates Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio), Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.), and Chris Mitchell (Chicago). Rhoda finished with 11 points, while Mitchell added 11 points and five rebounds. Smith had one of his best all-around efforts of the year, scoring 13 points and dishing out a season-high seven assists.


            "Travis really likes to shoot it and I think this should help his confidence," Bartow said. "He's struggled with his shot early on this season, but he'll probably be feeling a little bit better about now after going 5-of-8. I thought Chris gave us some really good minutes tonight. He played well, as did Tim."


            For Tennessee Tech, Ohio Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year Willie Jenkins scored 24 points to lead all scorers. He was not joined in double figures by any other Tennessee Tech player.


            The Buccaneers out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 43-35 for the game and shot 71 percent from the charity stripe. Junior post Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) led the way on the boards with a career-high 13 rebounds. ETSU hit on 44 percent of their shots from the field for the game, including a 43 percent clip from 3-point range.


            ETSU will get a seven-day break before returning to action Dec. 18 at Old Dominion. Meanwhile, Tennessee Tech will return to Cookeville to host Jacksonville University on Dec. 18.