NASHVILLE (March 6, 2009) - Led by a game-high 30 points from senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis), the ETSU men's basketball team finally ended Belmont's three-year run of Atlantic Sun Conference championships with an 88-74 victory over the Bruins Friday evening in the semifinals of the General Shale Brick A-Sun Championships at Allen Arena.
On his way to his 30 points, Pigram eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career, moved past Keith "Mister" Jennings to stand third on the ETSU all-time scoring list, and became just the second player in A-Sun history to record 2,000 points for his career. Pigram was joined in double figures scoring by senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) with 21 points, junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) with 19, and sophomore forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) with 11.
"That was a great win over a good program," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "Courtney, Kevin, Mike, Tommy, and our entire roster contributed to that victory. We're happy to be in this position, but all year this team has known what it wants to accomplish and everyone in that locker room knows we still have work to be done."
Despite possessing the top two scoring offenses on the A-Sun, both the Bucs and Bruins got off to slow shooting starts to begin the game and the score stood at just 10-9 with 11:58 left before the intermission. From there, the lead changed six times until the Bucs took a 16-14 edge and extended their advantage to 10 points at 34-24 on a Pigram 3-pointer with 1:56 left in the half.
Belmont was able to regroup from there and collect the final five points of the half to make the score 34-29 at the break. In the first half, ETSU held Belmont to just 37 percent shooting and outrebounded the Bruins 18-16, forcing eight Belmont turnovers and shooting 43 percent from the floor.
The first half included an historic moment for Pigram, whose first field goal of the game at the 10:21 mark allowed him to move to No. 3 on the Bucs' all-time scoring list, passing Jennings who scored 1,988 points in his career. Pigram later added to the history with his 3-pointer at the 1:56 mark, which moved him past the 2,000-point scoring plateau. Pigram trails only Centenary's Willie Jackson on the scoring list, as Jackson finished his career with 2,535 points.
The second half opened with an 8-0 ETSU run that made the score 42-29 with 17:43 left, but Belmont immediately answered with its own 13-2 burst to get the game back to two points at 44-42 with just over 14 minutes left in the game.
Despite a pair of mini runs for the Bucs midway through the half that pushed the lead out to as many as 10 points, the ETSU advantage remained just two points at 72-70 with 3:16 left in regulation. However, from there the Bucs made five straight defensive stops and outscored the Bruins 16-4 the rest of the way to secure the victory
For the game, the Bucs shot 49 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Bisons 38-30, forcing 14 turnovers and hitting 79 percent of their free throws.
Belmont was led in scoring by Shane Dansby with 21, while both Andy Wicke and Keaton Belcher scored 15 apiece. Alex Renfroe led all players with 10 rebounds.
ETSU moves on to Saturday's championship game, which will pit the Bucs against the winner of Friday's nightcap between Jacksonville and Lipscomb. Game time is set for 6 p.m. (EST) and will air nationally on ESPN2.