Bucs withstand late charge to drop Appalachian State, 72-69
Sunday, December 30, 2007


            JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 30, 2007) - The ETSU men's basketball team held on despite a 14-0 offensive explosion by Appalachian State in the final three minutes to take an important non-conference victory over its former Southern Conference rival 72-69 Sunday afternoon at Memorial Center. It was the first meeting between the old foes since the 2004-05 campaign, ETSU's last in the SoCon.


            The crowd of 5,017 got a dramatic end to a game that had been dominated throughout by the Buccaneers. Leading 66-50 with 3:49 left in the game, the Bucs' defense looked on as the Mountaineers found their shooting touch and connected on four 3-pointers and a pair of free throws to make it 66-64 with just under a minute remaining.


            From there, the Bucs went a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line to ice the game. Senior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) was the story of the game, netting a career high 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds for his fourth career double-double. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) turned in the No. 23 jersey he started wearing this season and returned to his freshman No. 1, responding with a season high 15 points.


            "That's a huge win for a lot of reasons," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 6-7. "I'm concerned that we can't seem to play a solid 40 minutes. We played great for 36 minutes, but it got really ugly at the end. It's still a great win especially to beat a team like Appalachian State which was coming off a win over Arkansas last week."


            The Bucs built an early lead in the first half thanks mainly to a stingy 2-3 zone and some poor shooting by the Mountaineers. In the end, the Bucs hit on 58 percent of their shots in the first half and Appalachian State managed just a 23 percent clip to trail 38-20 at the intermission.


            From there, ETSU actually built leads of 20 points twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and ultimately held its largest lead of the game at 53-32 with 11:43 remaining in the contest. The Bucs kept the lead at 16 points or more until the final four minutes, when 3-pointers by Appalachian State's Ryann Abraham, Donald Sims, and a pair from Doug McLaughlin-Williams powered the 14-0 burst to make it 66-64 with 56 seconds left.


            The two teams traded a pair of free throws from there, but it was Smith who hit four straight from the line to make it 72-66 before a last-second 3-pointer by ASU's Abraham finished the game's scoring.


            "Mike switched back to lucky No. 1 and played great," said Bartow, whose team now holds a 16-game home win streak against non-conference opponents which dates back to 2005. "Andrew was huge. We tell him all the time he can be an all-league player and that he's capable of those types of numbers all the time. His issue is just consistency."


            Along with Smith and Reed, the Bucs got 12 points and seven assists from junior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis), who was pressed into point guard duty with the dismissal of sophomore guard Dequan Twilley (Shelbyville), who Bartow said "was not meeting the standards of our team."


            For Appalachian State, Sims scored a team-high 13 points, while MLaughlin-Williams pitched in 12. The Bucs shot 48 percent for the game and 79 percent from the foul line, while the Mountaineers hit on only 39 percent from the floor and 47 percent from the line. The Bucs now lead the all-time series against Appalachian State, 74-46.


            ETSU wraps up its preconference schedule at 6-7, a slate that ranks in the Top 30 nationally in strength of schedule. The Bucs will begin Atlantic Sun Conference play Saturday at home against USC Upstate, with tip set for 4 p.m. The game will be a part of a doubleheader, as the Lady Bucs will also face Upstate at 1:30 p.m.