Tiggs, Smith help Bucs edge Hatters, 73-67
Saturday, January 10, 2009

DeLAND, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2009) - Senior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) finished with a game-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds and junior Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) added 17, as the Bucs rallied past Stetson 73-67 Saturday afternoon inside the Edmunds Center.


The win keeps ETSU's conference record unblemished, as the Bucs move to 11-4, 5-0 in the A-Sun. Stetson dropped to 6-8, 3-3 with the loss.


In addition to the stellar play of Tiggs and Smith, red-shirt freshman Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) and freshman Adam Sollazzo (Tampa, Fla.) enjoyed their homecoming to the Sunshine State. Brown tallied his first career double-double, finishing with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds; while Sollazzo came off the bench and added four points, five rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes.


"The message at halftime was not to panic," commented head coach Murry Bartow. "I told the team to go out and win the second half by at least five (points), and to give up only 27 points in the final 20 minutes was huge. The fact of winning five of six road games before today is what helped us win this game. Both Adam and Isiah played extremely well for us, and stepped up when we needed a big play."


Stetson jumped all over the Bucs early on thanks to hot 3-point shooting, as the Hatters connected on three of their first four long range attempts and led 14-6 - forcing ETSU to call a timeout before the first media stoppage at the 14:38 mark. The Hatters would extend their lead to 10, 22-12, but Tiggs continued to single-handedly keep the Bucs in the game. Tiggs scored 13 of the first 17 ETSU points - including a fade-a-away one-handed floater and converted on the 3-point play - lowering the deficit to five, 22-17, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half.


ETSU again pulled to within five (29-24), but Stetson nailed its seventh 3-pointer of the half to make it 34-24 with 5:18 on the clock. However, the Bucs came alive over the next four minutes, as ETSU took its first lead of the game when Tiggs' 3-pointer capped off a 12-1 run - giving the Bucs a 36-35 advantage. Unfortunately, the Hatters were bailed out right before the break, as A.J. Smith was fouled at the top of the key by Sollazzo with 3.2 seconds remaining and sank all three free throws to put Stetson ahead 40-36 at the break.


The Bucs shot 41.9 percent (13-31) from the field in the first half, compared to Stetson's 48 percent shooting clip (12-25). The Hatters connected on 7 of their first 13 three-point attempts, while ETSU was held 2 of 7. ETSU dominated Stetson on the glass (22-15) and the Bucs finished with seven assists, four blocks and five steals in the first 20 minutes.


ETSU came out on fire to start the second half, as the Bucs posted a 14-3 run to capture a 50-43 lead when senior Greg Hamlin (Flint, Mich.) came through untouched to slam home a (Mike) Smith miss with 15:08 remaining in the game. From there, the Hatters scored 10 of the next 14 points to creep back into the contest, 54-53, after Tim Lang nailed a jumper with 10:01 on the clock.


After the Hatter run, the game became a slugfest as both teams couldn't pull away from one another.


Fortunately, for the Bucs, over the next six and half minutes they looked to build momentum by moving their margin up to six (65-59), following a Smith jumper at the 3:39 mark; however, A.J. Smith's third 3-pointer of the game pulled the Hatters to within three, 67-64, with 1:49 to play in the contest.


Then, with the Bucs leading 67-64 and coming out of a 30-second timeout, Sollazzo was double-teamed at midcourt, but found Hamlin open and he dished a pass across to Brown for an uncontested dunk with 49 seconds remaining. The slam solidified the game as Tiggs scored the last four Buccaneer points and ETSU walked away with its sixth road victory of the season.


Hamlin tied a career high with seven rebounds and was one point shy of tying a career high in points - finishing with eight points, three assists and two blocks. Senior Courtney Pigram (Memphis) ended with five points and three assists before going down with an undisclosed ankle injury late in the first half.


As a team ETSU shot 44.8 percent (26-58) and outrebounded the Hatters, 44 to 31, including 16 offensive boards. The Bucs took full advantage of their 17 forced turnovers, by converting them into 25 points on the offensive end. Stetson was 21-of-55 from the field (38.2 percent) and 12-for-32 from beyond the arc (37.5 percent).


Garfield Blair led the Hatters with 22 points and Smith chipped in with 14.


The Bucs return to action on Monday night when they travel to Florida Gulf Coast. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. inside Alico Arena.


For more information on Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.