Strong powers rally as Bucs come back to drop Campbell, 74-69
Thursday, January 10, 2008


            JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2008) - Senior guard Travis Strong (Memphis) scored 13 of his 16 points in the final seven minutes, helping the ETSU men's basketball team rally from an 11-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to drop Atlantic Sun Conference foe Campbell 74-69 in front of 3,321 Thursday night inside Memorial Center.


            The game saw four ties and six lead changes before a Strong 3-pointer with just under a minute left gave the Bucs a 70-67 lead that they never relinquished. With the win, ETSU improves to 2-0 in A-Sun play, and moves to 8-7 overall on the year. Meanwhile, the Camels drop to 1-2 in league play and 5-9 overall.


            "Some games are tougher than others, but it's a good win," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 6-0 inside Memorial Center this season. "I thought the guys really stepped up in the final 10 minutes, and are eighth, ninth and 10th men really played well and stood out tonight. That's something as a staff we really talked about this morning and we wanted to play all 10 guys. We didn't shoot it great, but late we got some big defensive stops."


            ETSU, which did not lead in the game until the 6:24 mark of the second half when a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) made it 60-58, actually pulled its starting five players in the opening seconds after halftime and completely emptied its bench. With a lineup comprised of two freshmen, a sophomore and two junior college transfers, the Bucs kept in the game and gave their starters a chance to regroup and reenergize.


            The strategy worked, as the Bucs used an 18-7 run to take a 51-40 deficit and tie the game at 58-58 with 7:34 remaining. From there, the back and forth battle ultimately ended with Strong scoring the final seven points of the game on a 3-pointer and four straight free throws to ice the game.


            "It's always good to see Travis play big like that," Bartow said. "He's a fifth year guy and a great kid. To see him play that way is great."

            In the first half, Campbell used some hot shooting from the outside and a strong defensive effort to build a lead of as many as 11 points at 37-26 with just under two minutes left in the half. A free throw by senior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) and a 3-pointer by Courtney Pigram (Memphis) with four seconds left pulled the Bucs closer, but ETSU still trailed 37-30 at the break.


            At the intermission, Campbell was shooting 48 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range (6-of-12) and 100 percent (7-of-7) from the foul line. Sophomore forward Jonathan Rodriguez led the way with 14 points, while senior guard Jake Wohlfeil was a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range to net nine points. The Bucs' 30 points was their lowest offensive output in a first half this season.


            For the game, the Bucs got a team high 23 points from Pigram, while Strong added 16 and Smith pitched in 10. ETSU out-rebounded Campbell 41-31 and grabbed 19 offensive boards to just 10 for the Camels. The Bucs shot 84.2 percent from the foul line and grabbed 11 steals.


            Campbell got a game-high 25 points from Rodriguez, Kyle Vejraska netted 16, Wohlfeil scored 15, and Bishop pitched in 11. The Camels shot 50 percent from 3-point range (9-of-18), and were 80 percent from the charity stripe (16-of-20).


            The Bucs will continue A-Sun action on Saturday, facing off with Gardner-Webb at 4 p.m. The game is part of a women's/men's doubleheader as the Lady Bucs also face the Runnin' Bulldogs at 1:30. Meanwhile, the Camels will head to USC Upstate for a matchup with the Spartans in Spartanburg, S.C.