Bucs win again, set to play for NCAA berth Saturday on ESPN2
Friday, March 2, 2007

Bucs win again, set to play for NCAA berth Saturday on ESPN2


For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael White (423) 439-4220


            JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 2, 2007) - Sophomore Courtney Pigram (Memphis) added another notch to his conference player of the year resume and No.1 East Tennessee State qualified for its first championship game appearance in its new conference with a thrilling 77-72 win over No.4 Lipscomb in  the 2006 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Men's Basketball Championship semifinals Friday night at Memorial Center.


            Pigram hit a 15-foot jumper with 27 seconds to play to give the Bucs a three-point lead and added a free throw moments later to seal the win. Pigram was stellar again, finishing with 21 points.


            Pigram was just one of four Bucs in double-figure scoring. Freshman Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) added 17 points and six rebounds, Eryk Thomas (Fremont, Calif.) notched 11 points and six boards and Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) played all 40 minutes to record a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.


            The game was typical of ETSU and Lipscomb with both teams taking the others best shots before bouncing back with a classic finish.


            The first half played true to form for all the prior match-ups between these schools. Lipscomb (18-13) held the advantage most of the way, but ETSU (24-8) continually had the answer.


            For the second straight game, the Bisons jumped out early behind the play of guard Brian Fisk. He scored six of his team's first eight. Also like the night before, someone else followed up on Fisk's success. Eddie Ard scored seven of the next nine.


            Still, the Bucs were running stride for stride with an inside attack. Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) scored six quick points in the paint before giving Thomas his turn. Thomas scored nine of ETSU's 10 in one stretch to give them an 18-17 lead.


            An unusual four-point play from Michael Teller sparked an 8-0 Bison's run and gave them their largest lead of the game at 25-18. Fisk and Ard helped keep the lead for a while with 3-pointers, but the Bucs made their move before the break.


            Smith started the rally with a rebound dunk, Nuckles and Smith canned 3s and Pigram, silent for most of the half, came to life with seven quick points - including a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to tie the game at 35.


            That momentum carried over into the second half. The Bucs came out roaring with Pigram converting a three-point play on a drive to the basket. Nuckles hit a jumper and he and Reed turned in back-to-back three-point plays. The big run continued through the first 10 minutes, ending when Dequan Twilley nailed a jumper to give ETSU a 63-51 lead.


            True to form, the Bisons rallied. After a dreadful 0-for-9 shooting effort in the first half, Trey Williams caught fire. At one point, he scored 13 of his team's 16. Included were three long-range 3-pointers.


            Lipscomb kept crawling closer. Jason Hopkins, Ard and Fisk all scored down the stretch. The Bisons had a chance to pull even with exactly 1:00 left when Fisk rebounded a Williams miss and stuck it back in while getting fouled. Fisk missed the free throw, however, setting up Pigram's heroics.


            Fisk led Lipscomb with 20 points. Williams chipped in 19 points, while Ard added 16 points and seven rebounds.


Saturday's championship game is set for 4 p.m.



General Notes

ETSU sweeps the season series with the Bisons. Typical of all four previous A-Sun match-ups between these two schools, this game came down to final seconds.

With the win, ETSU moves closer to claiming a conference championship on its home court. This hasn't happened in the A-Sun since 2001.

The No.1 seed has now won seven straight against the No. 4 seed.

ETSU and Lipscomb have different ideas of their relative history. The ETSU media guide gives ETSU a 23-9 all-time advantage against the Bisons. Lipscomb chooses to count just the games played since the the Bisons jumped  to Division I. The record in that case is 3-2 in favor of ETSU.


ETSU Notes

With two assists against the Bisons, Tayloe Taylor joined Dequan Twillley and Courtney Pigram with more than 100 assists for the season. It's the first time in school history this has happened.

ETSU has now won 16 of its last 17 games. The 24 wins are the best since 2003-04.

ETSU is 107-35 inside Memorial Center since 1996. They have won 10 straight on their own court.

Brad Nuckles inched closer to 1,000 career points. With 12 on Friday, he now has 990 with at least two games left to play.



Lipscomb Notes

This was Lipscomb's first loss in the A-Sun semifinals. The Bisons reached the championship game last year.

Lipscomb is 12-1 when recording at least eight steals. They had just three swipes and forced only nine turnovers against ETSU.

The Bisons also fell short of the magic number of assists. When reaching 15, they are 9-1. They had just 13 against the Bucs.

The Bisons fall to 5-2 when shooting 45 percent or better. They hit 45.6 against the Bucs, but allowed ETSU to hit half their shots (29-for-58).