Second half run lifts Bucs past Morehead State, 82-70
Second half run lifts Bucs past Morehead State, 82-70
Thursday, December 29, 2005

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 29, 2005) - Leading by one point with 12:37 remaining in the game, the ETSU men's basketball team used a 12-0 offensive burst to take a 61-48 lead and eventually win 82-70 over non-conference foe Morehead State Thursday night in front of 4,050 fans at Memorial Center.


The Bucs, who got double figure scoring efforts from veterans Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.), Travis Strong (Memphis), Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) and Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.), used their final non-conference game of the season to win a second-straight game and improve to 3-6 overall. ETSU will return to Atlantic Sun Conference action on Jan. 4 at home against Florida Atlantic, with tip time set for 7 p.m.


"Our core guys really came up big," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "Those four guys have played in our two most recent NCAA Tournament trips and they've been playing very well in games and in practice right now. We've gotten off to a rocky start this season but we have 18 league games left and their all winnable. That's where our focus is now."


ETSU opened the game with a nine-point run to lead 9-0, with Morehead State finally breaking through with a basket at the 16:21 mark of the first half. The Eagles then put together a rally of their own, going on a 18-6 run to take a 20-15 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining before the break. The Bucs would eventually trail by as many as six points, but outscored Morehead State 15-7 over the final four minutes of the first half to take a 36-34 lead at the break.


In the second half, the two teams traded the lead four times before the Bucs made their run. A 3-point basket by Smith sparked the 12-point spurt and resulted in a 13-point lead at 61-48 before Morehead State tried to rally. The Eagles cut the lead to as few as seven points later in the second half, but after struggling at the foul line early in the game, the Bucs hit 7-of-8 down the stretch to ice the contest.


Smith led all scorers with 24 points - his 46th career 20-plus point game - while Strong also eclipsed that number with 20 points of his own for a season high in that category. Rhoda pitched in 14 points along with season highs for rebounds (nine) and minutes played (40), while Nuckles had season highs for rebounds (nine) and free throws (six) on way to a 12-point effort.


Strong helped the Bucs to their best steal effort of the season, as the team picked up 16 swipes led by a season high eight from the junior guard. ETSU shot a blistering 56 percent from the floor, out-rebounded the Eagles 30-26, and forced 24 Morehead State turnovers.


The Eagles were led by Quentin Pryor with 21 points, while Shaun Williams picked up 17 and Cordaryl Ballard added 12. Morehead State also shot well from the floor, posting a 53 percent clip for the night.


While ETSU returns to action on Jan. 4 against Florida Atlantic, Morehead State returns to play Jan. 2 at Ohio Valley Conference foe Tennessee State. With this win, the Bucs now evened the all-time series with their former OVC rival, 24-24.