Bucs hold off Belmont rally, capture program's 1,100th win, and improve their A-Sun lead with 80-70 overtime victory
Thursday, January 25, 2007

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 25, 2007) - After watching Belmont roar back from a 15-point halftime deficit to take the lead late in the second half, the ETSU men's basketball team regrouped to force overtime and went on to outscore the Bruins 15-5 in the extra frame to take a critical Atlantic Sun Conference battle 80-70 Thursday evening inside the Curb Event Center.


The Bucs got a career night from senior forward Eryk Thomas, who picked up his second straight double-double with 16 points and a career high 19 rebounds, and senior forward Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) picked up his fifth straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. With the win, ETSU improves to 15-7 overall, 9-1 in A-Sun play, increasing their lead in the standings to two games over Belmont (13-8, 7-3) and Lipscomb.


"We were fortunate there late," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 4-1 in overtime games this season and won the program's 1,100th game all-time. "It really looked like it was going to go their way, but we got out to a quick start in the overtime and usually the team that jumps out first gets the win. You can't say enough about our players. They made plays again tonight."


ETSU did not waste any time taking the lead in the first half, turning on the defensive pressure and going up 8-0 before the Bruins were able to break through with their first basket of the game at the 16:52 mark. In fact, the Bucs would hold Belmont to just 32 percent shooting from the floor, a 1-of-10 clip from beyond the 3-point arc, and out-rebounded their A-Sun rivals 24-10 in the first half. All those numbers added up to a lead of as many as 17 points at 38-21, and it took a lay up in the final minute by Belmont's Andy Wicke to make it 38-23 at the break.


But in the second half, Belmont used a trio of offensive runs evenly spaced throughout the second 20 minutes to eventually catch the Bucs and take the lead at 59-58 with 3:32 left in the game. The Bruins would then take their largest lead of the game thanks to a 3-pointer by Keaton Belcher at 64-62 with :37 seconds left, but sophomore guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) answered with his own three from the corner with 19 seconds to give the Bucs the advantage at 65-64. Belmont's Boomer Herndon then hit one of two free throws to tie the game and force the overtime.


In the extra frame, the Bucs scored the first seven points to take a 72-65 advantage. Belmont cut the lead to five, but never got any closer as the Bucs hit their free throws down stretch.


Along with Thomas and Nuckles, the Bucs got a team-high 18 points from Pigram, while junior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) scored 10. ETSU out-rebounded the Bruins 46-35, and held Belmont to 38 percent shooting from the floor. The Bucs hit on 87 percent of their free throws (20-of-23), a quality improvement over the last meeting with Belmont.


For Belmont, guard Justin Hare scored a game-high 20 points, while forward Andrew Preston added 14 points and Herndon pitched in 13.


The Bucs will return to action Saturday evening at 5 p.m. (EST) against Lipscomb. For fans unable to make the trip to Nashville, the game will be available at the live video streaming link at ETSUBucs.com.