HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Dec. 2, 2008) - Make no mistake, ETSU senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) loves playing the Marshall Thundering Herd.
Though junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) iced the Buccaneers 76-72 win over Marshall thanks to a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds left Tuesday night inside Cam Henderson Center, it was Tiggs' game and career-high 31 points that powered ETSU to the victory. In three career games against the Thundering Herd, Tiggs - who was heavily recruited by Marshall - has scored 81 points, having combined to score 50 against Marshall in two meetings during the 2007-08 season.
"What can you say about Kevin Tiggs, he was just great tonight," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improves to 4-3 on the year. "Coming on the road and beating a Conference USA team is something for us to build on. It's still early in the year, but we did a lot of things well tonight."
Led by Tiggs' 13-of-18 shooting effort, the Bucs hit an impressive 55 percent of their shots from the field, and were 46.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. In addition, ETSU also held its own against the Herd inside, being out-rebounded just 32-26, but outscoring the Herd 42-16 in the paint. Tiggs was joined in double figures by Smith, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, while senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) had a game high six assists.
Early in the first half, the Bucs managed to avoid the offensive drought that it experienced in their last game at Bradley - when ETSU was down 17-2 in the first few minutes. Instead, several inside shots and two baskets from Tiggs led to an 8-7 lead for ETSU with 15:43 left in the first half. The Bucs extended the advantage to 17-10 by the 11:34 mark, but coming out of the media timeout, the Thundering Herd proceeded to produce a 10-3 spurt to tie the game at 20-20 with 7:20 remaining.
The game stayed back-and-fourth over the next five minutes before a layup by Pigram, and a steal and score by Tiggs, helped power a quick spurt and the Bucs pulled ahead 39-30 with less than a minute to play. After a 3-pointer from Marshall's Darryl Merthie cut the edge to six, Smith hit a desperation 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired to make it 42-33 at the half.
The second half started in nightmare fashion for the Bucs, with Marshall going on a 16-4 run to take the lead 49-46 on a 3-pointer by Damier Pitts with 13:20 left in the game. The Bucs responded and retook the lead thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from freshman guard Jarvis Jones (Memphis), with the second coming at the 11:52 mark and making the score 52-50 in favor of ETSU. The Bucs extended the lead to 59-53 with 7:8:30 left on a short jumper by Smith, but the Herd came right back and later took the lead 65-64 on a 3-pointer by Shaquille Johnson with 3:41 left.
The Bucs responded though, going on a 7-0 run to make it 71-65 when a layup by freshman post Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) found the bottom of the net with 39 seconds remaining. From there, Tiggs scored on a layup, hit a foul shot, and Smith ended the game with two from the charity stripe.
Brown and senior forward Greg Hamlin (Flint, Mich.) also played well for the Bucs. Brown finished with six points and six rebounds, while Hamlin had eight points, five boards and four assists.
The Bucs will return to action in the fourth of five straight road games Friday night at Mercer, opening their 2008-09 Atlantic Sun Conference slate against the Bears at 7:30 p.m. in Macon, Ga.