JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 30, 2008) - A post-Christmas swoon led to a bump in the road for the ETSU men's basketball team, as the Buccaneers relinquished a nine-point second half lead and fell to former Ohio Valley Conference foe Morehead State 71-61 Tuesday night inside Memorial Center.
Building a 42-33 lead over the first five minutes of the second half, the Bucs were not able to keep the Eagles down, as Morehead State produced a 14-2 run just minutes later to retake the lead, and then outscored ETSU 13-4 in the final three minutes to close out the contest. With the win, Morehead State snapped ETSU's current five-game winning streak, and the loss snapped a 19-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents for ETSU, a run that had spanned four seasons.
With the loss, the Bucs dropped to 8-4 overall, while Morehead State improved to 5-8.
"It's obvious I'm disappointed, but we are still thrilled to be here at 8-4 right now, and we're trying to keep perspective about what we've accomplished so far this year," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team's 8-4 record still matches the team's best start since the 2003-04 campaign. "Give credit to Morehead State. They are like so many other mid-major teams that play tough early schedules. Their record did not mean anything to us. They were picked to finish near the top of their league and we knew this would be tough. We have important games coming up. This wasn't one of them. Jacksonville on Saturday is what matters."
The Bucs were sluggish to start the game, as Morehead State built a lead of as many as six points at 20-14 on a 3-pointer by Maze Stallworth with just under 10 minutes left before the half. Morehead State then held the lead until the 5:46 mark, when a 3-pointer by Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) made it 26-24 in favor of ETSU. The Bucs would then hold the lead the rest of the half and take their largest advantage of the game when Courtney Pigram (Memphis) hit a pair of free throws with just 2.5 seconds left to make it 33-29.
ETSU was able to remedy the slow start in many ways thanks to their defensive effort, as the Bucs held the Eagles to just 32 percent shooting in the first half and forced nine turnovers. Meanwhile, the Bucs hit on 48 percent of their shots from the floor. However, those good times did not last.
The Bucs opened the second half with a 9-4 run to take their largest lead of the game, but from there Morehead State used a 22-of-25 effort from foul line and out-rebounded the Bucs 41-28 to post the decisive statistics of the game and take the victory.
For the game, Morehead State's Leon Buchanan scored a game-high 23 points, while Stallworth joined him in double figures with 22 points, and Demonte Harper pitched in 12. Most impressive for the Eagles was forward Kenneth Faried's 17 rebound effort.
For the Bucs, senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) matched Buchanan's 23-point effort, while fellow senior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) had 21 on the night.
The Bucs will return to action Saturday afternoon, beginning the season's conference stretch run with a visit from Jacksonville. The Dolphins and Bucs will tip at 4 p.m., following the women's game between the same two squads, which will start at 1:30 p.m.