NEW ORLEANS (March 18, 2010) - Giving up a season high 54 points in the first half and facing a team that was hitting on all cylinders offensively, the 16th-seeded ETSU men's basketball team had no answers for No. 1 seed Kentucky Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the New Orleans Arena.
The Wildcats, considered by many to be the most talented team in the tournament, certainly looked and played like a team destined to win a national championship en route to a 100-71 victory over the Buccaneers. It was the largest deficit in ETSU's nine trips to March Madness.
"It was obviously a tough matchup for us and a huge challenge," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team finishes a successful season as champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 20-15 overall record. "They jumped out on us and even though our scouting report was that they didn't really shoot it well from outside, they certainly didn't do that tonight. If they do that the rest of the tournament they are going to be hard to beat for anyone.
"I'm really proud of our team. We had a great year, but tonight we played possibly the best team in the country. We wish Coach Calipari and Kentucky the best."
Kentucky (33-2) definitely shot the ball much better than the Bucs had expected, making a season high 15 3-pointers, shooting 52 percent from the field, and 46 percent from beyond the arc. In addition, the Wildcats posted an impressive 27 assists on 31 made field goals.
Individually, the Cats were led by guard Eric Bledsoe, who netted a game-high 29 points and was 8-of-9 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, forward Patrick Patterson posted 22 and guard John Wall had 17.
For the Bucs, four players reached double figures, with junior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) leading the way with 19. While Williams did not back down from one of the nation's best teams, other ETSU players also performed well, with junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) pitching in 15 points, sophomore guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) netting 14 all in the second half, and sophomore forward Isiah Brown (Miami) adding 11.
In the first half, the Buccaneers began the game with a strong showing, as a pair of 3-pointers from Tubbs helped ETSU to an early 10-9 lead at the 15:48 mark. But the Wildcats answered in a big way from that point, outscoring the Bucs 45-16 the rest of the half to lead 54-26 at the break.
Before the intermission, Kentucky shot 59 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc, dishing out 16 assists and forcing the Bucs into 10 turnovers. On the boards, the Wildcats were equally impressive, outrebounding the Bucs 25-14. Meanwhile, ETSU shot just 37 percent from the field and a dismal 18 percent from the foul line.
ETSU showed a great deal more fight and battled in the second half, as Kentucky managed to just outscore the Bucs 46-45 in the second 20 minutes.
For the game, the Bucs held their own on the boards, being out-rebounded just 44-40. However, ETSU shot just 36 percent from the field, and 57 percent from the foul line.
The Bucs, who have now made trips to the NCAAs four times in the last eight seasons, see their season come to a close but the team returns all but one player next season. For more on the Bucs throughout the offseason, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.