In a game that began with a memorial service for former ETSU center Seth Coy (Washington, Ind.), who tragically died in a car accident last summer, the Buccaneers were the recipients of a fortuitous intentional foul call with a minute left in regulation and capitalized at the foul line with five makes in six tries to pick up the victory. A crowd of 5,562 fans looked on as sophomore guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa, Fla.) - who roomed with Coy and now wears his No. 43 jersey - hit two of those free tosses with 16.2 seconds left to help ice the game.
"I am so proud of our team right now," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team is beginning a stretch of five games in 11 days to open the season. "This was an incredibly emotional day with Seth's Mom and all the family and friends who came down from Indiana. To win with our best player (Mike Smith) nursing an injury and only playing 10 minutes, and to have our starters only score 21 points - I don't know that that's ever happened in my career."
Prior to the game, over 50 people from Coy's hometown were on the Memorial Center floor, and Bartow presented his mother with a framed jersey. Those emotions seemed to wear on both the Bucs and Mountaineers, who struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half.
In the first 20 minutes of play, the Bucs shot just 34 percent from the field and ASU hit on just 41 percent. At the intermission, it was tied 27-27 and the two teams had combined for 21 turnovers (13 for Appalachian and eight for the ETSU).
The game saw 10 ties and nine lead changes, and the second half followed that trend throughout. ETSU's largest lead was six points and it came with 12:09 left in regulation, but the Mountaineers battled back to regain the advantage at 50-49 with 6:17 remaining. ETSU led 57-56 when the call of the game was made, as ASU's Isaac Butts was slapped with an intentional foul call as ETSU junior Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) was slashing to the basket. Tubbs hit both shots to make it 59-56, but not until Sollazzo's two free throws made it 61-58 and ASU's Ryann Abraham missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left did the Bucs feel safe.
Junior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) hit one of two foul shots with five seconds left to make it a four-point game and give the Bucs the win.
With only 21 points of offense from its starters, the Bucs got a great effort from true freshman Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) and Tubbs, both of whom came off the bench to score 11 points each. Meanwhile, Sollazzo and his No. 43 jersey fittingly led the Bucs in scoring with 13 points.
Appalachian State got a game-high 14 from Donald Sims and Nathan Healy added 10.
For the game, ETSU held ASU to just 41 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers.
ETSU returns to action on Tuesday night with the second of two games against former Southern Conference foes, as the Bucs take on the defending SoCon Tournament champions Chattanooga on the road. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in the Roundhouse.
For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.