JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 19, 2009) - Racing out to a 16-point halftime lead, the ETSU men's basketball team only poured it on the Belmont Bruins in the second half, building a lead of as many as 33 points and eventually dismissing its Atlantic Sun Conference rival in convincing fashion 87-57 Monday evening inside Memorial Center.
A raucous season high crowd of 4,196 looked on as the Buccaneers handed the Bruins their program's worst loss since joining the Atlantic Sun Conference. ETSU improved to 13-5 overall, 7-1 in A-Sun play and remains tied with Jacksonville for first place in the league standings. Meanwhile, Belmont drops to 10-7, 6-2.
"It's a crazy game," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "I would have taken a five point win, but tonight we just played really well on both ends of the floor. This was an important game for us but just because it was the next one - not because it was Belmont. I'm really proud of our guys."
The Bucs, who were looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss to Belmont in the semifinals of the A-Sun Tournament last March, simply dominated on both ends of the floor. ETSU hit on 57 percent of its shots from the floor, outrebounded the Bruins 45-35 and forced 17 turnovers on the evening. In addition, the Bucs defense stifled the A-Sun's best offensive squad, holding them to 28 percent shooting (18-of-64) from the floor and just 20 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (7-of-35).
Senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) led the offensive charge for the Bucs with a game-high 24 points, while fellow senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) joined Pigram in the 20-point realm with 22. In addition, sophomore guard Micah Williams (Manchester) pitched in 11 points, and senior forward Greg Hamlin (Flint, Mich.) provided a career high 10 points and 10 rebounds to post his first ever double-double.
The first half was all ETSU from the start. Powered by eight points from Tiggs, ETSU blitzed out to a 14-5 lead before the under 16:00 media timeout. After trading baskets over the next two minutes, another 16-2 run by the Bucs made it 30-13 with 8:06 left, and from there the two teams traded baskets to make it 44-28 at the break.
In the first 20 minutes, Tiggs led all scorers with 15 points, as the Bucs hit on 53 percent of their shots from the floor (18-of-34) and outscored the Bruins 24-8 in the paint. While the offense rolled, the defense was equally impressive by holding Belmont to just 30 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent from beyond the arc.
The Bucs only kept the pressure on the second half, outscoring Belmont 22-14 in the first eight minutes to basically put the game away.
For Belmont, guard Alex Renfroe led the way with a team-high 16 points, while fellow guard Andy Wicke pitched in 12 and Keaton Belcher had 11.
The Bucs continue with their four-game home stand on Thursday night, taking on league foe Campbell at 7 p.m. inside Memorial Center. For more on ETSU men's basketball throughout the season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.