JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 17, 2009) - Overcoming a 15-point halftime deficit, senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) forced overtime on a game-tying layup with .7 seconds left in regulation, and the ETSU men's basketball team went on to outscore Atlantic Sun Conference foe Lipscomb 12-9 in the extra period to take a hard-fought 85-82 win Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Center.
With the win, ETSU (12-5, 6-1 A-Sun) moves back into a tie with Jacksonville and Belmont at the top of A-Sun standings, as the Buccaneers prepare for Monday's showdown with Belmont inside Memorial Center at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Lipscomb drops to 6-10, 2-5.
"It seems like every time we play Lipscomb it's right down to the wire, and obviously we feel pretty good right now because we came out on the good end of this one," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team forced 27 turnovers by the Bisons and has now won seven straight over Lipscomb. "I was really proud of our guys and their effort in the second half and overtime. This says a lot about our players. Guys like CP (Pigram) and Kevin Tiggs just continuously compete, and with the fullcourt we play, all our players know that even in a 12 or 15-point game we have a chance."
The Buccaneers got a team high 27 points from senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.), while Pigram finished with 26, and junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) pitched in 10. Most importantly, freshman point guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) came off the bench to play his best game so far, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists in 30 minutes of floor time.
Trailing by as many as 17 in the first half and facing a 45-30 game at the break, the second half started in much the same fashion for the Bucs, with ETSU struggling and Lipscomb holding onto its 15-point lead at 51-36 with just over 15 minutes left in the game. However, at that point the ETSU rally began.
Over the next seven minutes, ETSU went to its fullcourt pressure game and outscored the Bisons 22-7 to tie the game at 58-58 on a pair of free throws from Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) with 8:56 left in the contest. ETSU finally got its first lead of the game with 7:10 left on a pair of free throws from Pigram that made it 64-62. The Bucs' lead increased to four at that point, but Lipscomb managed an 8-1 run of its own to regain a 70-67 advantage with 3:37 left in the game. A pair of alley-oop baskets from Tiggs - including a slam dunk with 2:36 - regained the lead for ETSU at 71-70 with 2:36 left.
From there, Lipscomb stopped two ETSU scoring opportunities and regained the advantage when a shot by senior guard Michael Lusk missed the mark and sophomore forward Adnan Hodzic hit the put-back layup to make it 72-71 with 15 seconds left. Tiggs turned the ball over on the next possession with 13 seconds left, and after Jimmy Oden made the first and missed the second of two foul shots, Pigram got the ball and scored the game-tying basket with .7 seconds left.
In the extra period, Lipscomb scored the first four points, but a 3-pointer by ETSU freshman Jarvis Jones (Memphis) sparked a 9-0 ETSU run that made it 82-77 with 1:16 left. Lipscomb's Josh Slater then sank a jumper to make it 82-79, and after swapping baskets the score stood 85-82 in favor of the Bucs with 31 seconds remaining. However, from there, Tiggs and Sollazzo combined to go 0-for-4 and the charity stripe and left the door open for the Bisons, but Lipscomb was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and ETSU escaped with the win.
The Bucs certainly didn't look good in the first half, as ETSU struggled out of the gate and hit just two of their first 12 shots, allowing Lipscomb to build an early 13-4 lead with 11:49 left before the intermission. ETSU finally responded by outscoring the Bisons 10-6 over the next three minutes to cut the lead to five at 19-14, but another 8-2 spurt by Lipscomb made it 27-16 with just over six minutes left before the break.
ETSU tried to rally once more with a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-point play from Sollazzo (Tampa), making it 27-23. However, Lipscomb hit three straight 3-pointers to power an offensive burst and outscore the Bucs 18-7 the rest of the way, as the Bisons ultimately led 45-30 at the break.
The Bucs shot just 35 percent in the first half, while Lipscomb posted an impressive 66 percent from the field. The lone bright spot for ETSU and the reason the Bucs were at least in shouting distance was a 10-of-12 effort from the free throw line.
Hodzic finished with a game-high 30 points for Lipscomb, hitting on 14-of-16 from the floor, while Slater pitched in 15. The Bisons shot 54 percent from the floor and 42 percent from beyond the arc, while the Bucs were 42 percent from the field and 72 percent (26-of-36) at the foul line.
ETSU moves on to face Belmont Monday at 7 p.m., while Lipscomb will be on the road at USC Upstate that same evening. For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.