Saint Mary's cool off Bucs in Hawaii, 89-65
Saturday, December 22, 2007

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Dec. 21, 2007) - After knocking off Georgia less than 24 hours ago, the East Tennessee State men's basketball team were looking to carry its thunder over into Friday's semifinal match-up against a difficult Saint Mary's team; however, the Gaels cooled off the Bucs by outscoring them 45-28 in the final 20 minutes to claim an 89-65 victory in the 44th annual Rainbow Classic from the Stan Sheriff Center.


ETSU, who was gunning for its first-ever Tiki trophy, fell a game short of the championship and dropped to 5-6. Saint Mary's, who currently has the second highest RPI in college basketball, improved to 9-1 overall.


The Bucs had three players total double figures in scoring with juniors Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) and Courtney Pigram (Memphis) leading the way game-high 16-point performances. Travis Strong (Memphis) came off the bench and chipped in with 10. To go along with his 16 points, Tiggs also grabbed seven rebounds. On the other end, ETSU could not stop the balanced scoring attack from the Gaels, as they had six players reach double figures, including Diamon Simpson's double-double effort with 15 points and 12 rebounds.


"We fought an uphill battle all night and every time we made a run they (Saint Mary's) had an answer for us," said head ETSU men's basketball coach Murry Bartow. "I thought we were up and ready for the game, but when teams like the Gaels are making plays they have a tendency to make you look bad."


The first half saw both teams use a pair of runs to try to control the game. After the first five minutes were closely contested, 14-12, Saint Mary's broke open the game with a 23-5 run and took a 37-17 advantage with 5:52 on the clock. However, the Bucs quickly responded with a run of their own and woke up the contingent of ETSU fans that made the long journey to the island. Over the final five and half minutes the Bucs blitzed the Gaels with a 20-4 run, cutting the margin to four, 41-37, with 51 seconds left in the half. Then, Saint Mary's added a blow to the Buccaneers, as Carlin Hughes nailed a half court shot as time expired to send the Gaels into the locker room with a 44-37 lead.  


ETSU was led by Tiggs' 14-point effort at intermission, while Hughes and Yusef Smith led Saint Mary's with nine. Tiggs got the Bucs started, scoring eight of the first 12 points for ETSU which included a pair of three-point field goals. As a team, the Bucs shot 47.8-percent (11-23) from the field, compared to the Gaels' 56-percent clip (14-25). Saint Mary's used the three-point shot to its advantage by hitting six and limiting ETSU to only two. Both clubs faired well from the free throw line, combining to go 23-for-29 (79.3 percent).


Saint Mary's would carry the momentum into the second half, but this time Omar Samhan took over for the Gaels. When it looked like ETSU would make a run after Mike Smith's (Vandalia, Mo.) three-pointer from the corner brought the game to five, 49-44, at the 17:21 mark; the Gaels countered with strong play from Sahman. The 6-foot-11 sophomore scored eight of the first 15 points for Saint Mary's and the visitors pushed its lead back to double digits, 59-48. Pigram tried to keep the Bucs into the contest as he scored the next four points, lowering the Gael advantage to 59-52. Unfortunately, Saint Mary's would control the remainder of the game by posting a 30-13 run to claim the 24-point victory.


The Bucs only hit 37.5-percent from the field (21-56), compared to Saint Mary's 55.4-percent effort (31-56). ETSU did go 19-of-23 from the free throw line (82.6 percent), but only finished with four assists to the 17 from the Gaels.


ETSU now awaits the loser of the Ohio/Louisiana Lafayette which is currently in progress. Tip for the third-place game is set for 10:00 p.m. EST.


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