JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 3, 2009) - Senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) set a career high and nearly broke the Memorial Center single game scoring mark by scoring 39 points, while junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) sank a floating shot with 4.5 seconds left in regulation, lifting ETSU past Atlantic Sun Conference foe Jacksonville 84-82 Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Center.
After Smith missed two free throws with 44.9 seconds left, Jacksonville's Leman Colbert later tied the game at 82-82 with a pair shots from the charity stripe with 32 seconds left. Smith then found redemption, taking a pass from Pigram and driving to the left to make a 10-foot floater off the glass, giving the Bucs the lead 84-82 with 4.5 seconds left. Jacksonville's Travis Cohn later had a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that came up short and the Bucs escaped with the win.
With the victory, ETSU improves to 9-4 overall, 3-0 in A-Sun play, while Jacksonville fell to 3-8, 2-1.
"Courtney was just phenomenal," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has won eight of its last 10 games. "He just got that look in his eye, and when he does you just try to get him the ball as much as you can. I was really proud of Mike for coming back and hitting that shot at the end, especially after the tough night he'd had. For us this was a huge win. Jacksonville is a very good team and in conference play this was big."
Pigram was joined in double figures by Smith with 11 and fellow senior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) with 13. Meanwhile, on the boards freshman post Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) led the Bucs with a team high 11 rebounds. For Jacksonville, six Dolphins reached double figures with Lehmon Colbert scoring a team high 15 points, while teammate Marcus Allen posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
In the first half, the Bucs got off to slow start and allowed Jacksonville to pull ahead by nine points on a couple of occasions, including a 29-20 advantage with just over seven minutes left before the break. Five 3-pointers - with three coming from guard Evan Jefferson - were the key to the Dolphins early success. ETSU responded in the final minutes, outscoring JU 15-10 the rest of the way to make the score 39-35 at the break.
The Bucs rallied out of the gate in the second half, using their fullcourt press defense to get a pair of turnovers and ultimately take the lead at 49-48 on a 3-pointer by Pigram with just under 17 minutes left in the game. Jacksonville then responded with an 8-0 run of its own to make it 56-49 with 15:16 left in the game, but powered by nine straight points from Pigram the Bucs outscored the Dolphins 17-8 over the next three minutes to make it 66-64 with 10:39 left.
In a game of runs, a 7-0 burst by the Dolphins was followed by another 9-0 stretch by the Bucs that made it 75-71 in favor of ETSU with 5:49 remaining in the game. JU regained the lead at 76-75 thanks to a bucket by Colbert and a 3-pointer from guard Ben Smith, but three straight foul shots by the Bucs made it 78-76 with 3:27 left.
From there, ETSU built a five-point lead at 81-76, but shooting 1-of-5 from the line down the stretch, Jacksonville was able to tie the game on Colbert's free throws, setting up Smith's heroics.
The Bucs return to league play on Monday, facing North Florida at 7 p.m. inside Memorial Center. Meanwhile, Jacksonville travels to USC Upstate to take on the Spartans.