CLEMSON, S.C. (March 14, 2007) - Sophomore guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) scored a game high 25 points and senior Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau for his career, but the Clemson Tigers used a dominating performance on the glass to drop ETSU 64-57 and survive a first round match up with the Buccaneers in the National Invitation Tournament Wednesday evening inside Littlejohn Coliseum.
Despite being held to just 38 percent shooting by the ETSU defense, Clemson out-rebounded the Bucs 51-32 - 19-6 on the offensive end of the floor - to overcome a 49-48 deficit late in the game and hold on for the win. With the victory, Clemson (22-10) advances to the second round of the NIT where it will face the winner of Appalachian State/Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Bucs (24-10) watched their season come to a close after winning a regular season Atlantic Sun Conference championship and making postseason play for the third time in five seasons.
"They were just too strong and athletic for us on the inside, and playing on the road at an ACC school was too much to overcome," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "I'm proud of our effort, though, because we really battled and we had a chance at the end. We didn't execute very well on offense at the end of the game, but that was still a good showing for us. This team has won 24 games and a championship this year. We hate that the season ended, but we've had a great year."
In the first half, Clemson took an early 7-2 lead only to see the Bucs put together an six-point spurt and go on top 8-7 with 14:57 left on the clock. From there, the Tigers responded with a 10-0 run of their own over the next four minutes to take a 17-8 advantage. Nuckles finally ended a four minute offensive drought for the Bucs with a pair of foul shots and ETSU ended a 9-0 run of its own with a Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) 3-pointer at the 7:25 mark to tie the game at 17.
The Bucs grabbed their second lead of the game with 4:57 left before the intermission, when an Andrew Reed (Port
While Clemson opened the second half with a 3-pointer to take the lead to 32-25, ETSU bounced back with a 6-0 run to make it 32-31 and force the Tigers to take a 30 second time out to stop the bleeding. Later, ETSU actually had a chance to take the lead on a missed lay up by Pigram, but the Tigers took advantage with a 4-0 run to make it 40-35. The Bucs answered to stay within one for the next several minutes, and at 46-45, Pigram was fouled and went to the line with a chance to give ETSU their first lead of the second half with 7:49 remaining in the contest. Pigram hit one of two to tie the game, but moments later, the Bucs actually managed to finally take a lead on a lay up by Eryk Thomas (
Clemson forward Trevor Booker then took the game on his shoulders, scoring six of eight points in a 9-2 Clemson run to make it 57-51 with just over four minutes left in the game. Nuckles hit a lay up to take his career scoring number to 1,001 and bring the Bucs back to four points at 57-53, but from there ETSU could not get any closer despite the fact Clemson missed several foul shots down the stretch.
The Bucs shot 41 percent from the floor, forced Clemson into 19 turnovers and had 10 steals. Though the Tigers' rebounding advantage was significant, the Bucs also helped the Clemson cause by hitting on just 1-of-13 from beyond 3-point range. ETSU did negate those numbers somewhat by holding Clemson to just 6-of-25 from outside the arc.
While Pigram was the only Buc in double figures, Clemson had four players reach double digits with guard K.C. Rivers leading the way with 17. Meanwhile, guard Vernon Hamilton, Booker and forward Cliff Hammonds scored 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively.
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