Bears stand in way of Bucs' ninth trip to NCAAs
Friday, March 5, 2010

MACON, Ga. (March 6, 2010) -- Hoping to earn the program's ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament, the ETSU Buccaneers will take on the Mercer Bears in the championship game of the 2010 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Saturday at 6 p.m. inside the University Center on the campus of Mercer University.

The game will air nationally on ESPN2.

The Bucs (19-14) will face an uphill battle, taking on a Bears team that has defeated them twice already this season. In addition, ETSU will meet Mercer on the Bears' home floor and in front of a hostile crowd.

For more on Saturday's game, click on the game notebook link above or read the game notes below.

Buc bits

With their longest winning streak of the season standing at five victories and serving as momentum, the ETSU men's basketball team will continue its defense of the 2009 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament championship Saturday night against Mercer on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. ... This is the third trip to the A-Sun finals for the Bucs in four seasons (2007, 2009, 2010) ... But the Bucs are certainly not the same team that won this event a year ago, having lost all four of its five starters from a year ago (three to graduation and one to injury), and giving up over 44 points of the team's 78.1-point average from a year ago ... But there has been even more to overcome, as the Bucs also were forced to deal with the death of rising sophomore forward Seth Coy (Washington, Ind.) to a car accident over the summer and the loss of 1,000-point scoring guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) to injury early in the regular season ... Regardless, ETSU now stands at 19-14 overall thanks to a win over Campbell in the quarterfinals and a victory over Kennesaw State in the semifinals, and the Bucs find themselves just one win away from the NCAA Tournament, which would be the programs ninth trip all-time to the Big Dance ... While Smith has been absent and will apply for a medical redshirt season, junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston), along with junior guards Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) and Micah Williams (Manchester) have stepped up their games. In fact, Hubbard has posted double-doubles 13 times this season on way to being named second team All Atlantic Sun Conference ... Currently, Hubbard leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game ... Williams and Tubbs are averaging 12.5 and 11.8 points per game, respectively.


The Bucs in the A-Sun Tournament

Entering just their fifth Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, the Buccaneers are 8-3 all-time, and most recently enjoyed a perfect 3-0 run through the event a year ago en route to a conference title and trip to the NCAAs ... The Bucs' previous trips included a loss in the first round of the event in 2006, advancing to the finals in 2007, and falling in the semifinals in 2008 ... In conference tournaments all-time (including the Southern and Ohio Valley), the Bucs are 38-21, having gone 7-3 in league championship final games.


ETSU in conference finals

The Buccaneers have played in 10 previous tournament finals and hold an impressive 7-3 mark ... The following is a breakdown of those games:

1983 -- vs. Chattanooga, 70-62 (L)

1989 -- vs. Marshall, 96-73 (W)

1990 -- vs. Appalachian State, 96-75 (W)

1991 -- vs. Appalachian State, 101-82 (W)

1992 -- vs. Chattanooga, 74-62 (W)

1993 -- vs. Chattanooga, 86-75 (L)

2003 -- vs. Chattanooga, 97-90 (W)

2004 -- vs. Chattanooga, 78-62 (W)

2007 -- vs. Belmont, 67-94 (L)

2009 -- vs. Jacksonville, 85-68 (W)


Bucs hoping to add one more NCAA trip

Having already made eight trips to the NCAA Tournament in its history, the ETSU men's basketball team would like to add another conference tournament trophy to the case in the Mini-Dome ... The Bucs' current stretch of success under head coach Murry Bartow is arguably the second best stretch of success in ETSU hoops history ... The most successful stretch was from 1989 to 1992, when the Bucs made four straight trips to the NCAAS, were ranked in the Top 10 nationally (1991), and defeated Arizona in the NCAA first round of the tournament in 1992 ... The Bucs only other trip prior to that stretch came in 1968 ... While head coach Ed DeChellis took the Bucs to the tournament in 2003, Bartow has taken the Bucs to the tournament twice (2004 and 2009), while also leading ETSU to the 2007 NIT.


Williams bringing more offense table

Junior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) has worked his way into the starting lineup thanks to more consistent play on the offensive end ... He has scored in double figures in 19 of his last 24 games, and most recently played the best offensive game of his career with personal bests for points (32), field goals (nine), 3-point goals (four) and free throws (10) ... He followed that effort with 20 points against Kennesaw State in the A-Sun Semifinals, meaning he is averaging 26.0 points per game in the tournament ... Currently, Williams is one of three Bucs averaging double figures scoring this year with 12.5 ppg.


Last time in the A-Sun Tournament

MACON, Ga. (March 5, 2010) - Freshman forward J.C. Ward (Marietta, Ga.) sank a critical jump shot, blocked an attempted score and pulled down an important defensive rebound in the final seconds, as the No. 5-seeded ETSU men's basketball team rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to take a hard-fought 69-64 win over No. 8-seeded Kennesaw State in the semifinals of the 2010 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Friday night at the University Center on the campus of Mercer University. ...        The Buccaneers, who are the defending A-Sun Tournament champions, led the game 63-62 with 59 seconds left when Ward sank his 18-foot jumper to make it 65-62, and he later grabbed a missed foul shot by the Owls to help seal the win. Junior guards Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) and Micah Williams (Manchester) then combined to hit four straight free throws down the stretch, helping send the Bucs to their second straight A-Sun championship game.

ETSU (19-14 overall) will face the winner of Friday night's other semifinal between Mercer and Jacksonville, and Saturday's championship game will air nationally at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. ... Along with Ward's play down the stretch, Williams returned from his career best 32-point effort in Thursday's quarterfinal win to score a team-high 20 points against the Owls. In addition, junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) pitched in 18 points, while freshman Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) had 11. ...             ETSU got off to a slow start in the first half, shooting poorly from the field and watching the Owls build a lead of as many as 15 points at 21-6 with 11:35 left in the half. However, the Bucs put together an 11-0 run at that point to get within four at 21-17. ...   The two teams traded baskets before ETSU scored the final five points of the half to take the lead at 31-29 when Williams sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer. ...          In the second half, the Bucs continued to play well early on as they pushed the lead out to eight points at 45-37 on a layup by Tubbs. However, from there the Owls hit three straight 3-pointers in an 11-0 spurt to race past the Bucs and hold a 52-47 edge with 10 minutes left in the game. ...           ETSU managed to rally at that point, regaining the lead at 55-54 and not trailing again even though the Bucs never held an advantage of more than four points down the stretch. In fact, though Ward's bucket made it 65-62, Kennesaw State's Kevin McConnell quickly scored and was fouled, going to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game. The free toss missed however, and Ward was there to pull down the board. From there, both Tubbs and Williams hit free throws to ice the win. ... For KSU, freshman Markeith Cummings had a game high 23 points, while guard Spencer Dixon added 18.


The series against Mercer

Prior to losing twice this season to the Bears, the Buccaneers had enjoyed a nice stretch of perfection against the Bears ... The Bucs were 8-0 all-time against Mercer before falling to the Bears 83-78 back on Jan. 9, and then losing again at the Mini-Dome 82-77 on Feb. 14 ... The Bucs are currently 8-2 all-time against Mercer.


Last time against Mercer

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2010) - Going 25-of-25 at the free throw line before eventually finishing the game with a 33-of-40 clip at the charity stripe, the Mercer Bears took advantage of the ETSU men's basketball team's fouling woes on Sunday afternoon, dropping the Buccaneers 82-77 in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. ... Trailing 72-68 with just under three minutes left in the game, the Bucs missed out on their chance to pull closer by going 1-of-4 at the foul line. From there, Mercer responded by going 8-of-13 at the line to keep the Bucs from rallying. ... It was a game of runs in the first half, as the Bucs went on a 7-0 stretch to make it 17-12 in favor of ETSU with 11:34 left in the half. However, from there ETSU did not score for six minutes of game time and Mercer took that opportunity to go on a 15-0 run and led 27-17 with 6:09 left before the intermission. The Bucs finally responded and outscored the Bears 17-10 the rest of the way to make it 37-34 at the break. ... In the second half, the Bears led by as many as 12 points at 56-44 at the 13:42 mark. The Bucs slowly battled back to make it a two-point game at 65-63 on a 3-pointer by junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.), but that was as close as ETSU could get the rest of the way ... Along with their 82.5 percent effort from the foul line, the Bears also shot a blistering 63 percent from the floor in the second half. Both teams committed their share of turnovers, with Mercer finishing with 19 and ETSU ending the game with 15. ... The Bucs were led by junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston), who posted his 13th double-double of the year with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, teammates Tubbs, Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) and Micah Williams (Manchester) finished in double figures with 13, 10 and 10 points, respectively. ... For the Bears - who played without the services of All A-Sun guard James Florence in the second half due to an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the first half - guard E.J. Kusnyer led the way with 21 points. Meanwhile, post Daniel Emerson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Florence added 12.


Sollazzo honors Coy with number change

When ETSU's rising sophomore forward Seth Coy (Montgomery, Ind.) was tragically killed in a car accident this summer, it left the entire Buccaneer community with a deep sense of loss ... As is often the case, those that are left to mourn have looked for ways to remember the Bucs' 6-foot-11 "Gentle Giant." ... For sophomore guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa), who was Coy's roommate, the answer was simple ... Changing his jersey number from No. 20 to Coy's No. 43, Sollazzo will play the 2009-10 season to honor his friend and have that memory with him each night. ... In addition, the Bucs were a special "43" batch on their uniforms this season in honor of their fallen friend and teammate.


Century mark not usual for ETSU defense

Giving up 100 points in the loss to Belmont (1/23/10) was not usual for the Buccaneers ... Before that game, the Bucs had not given up 100 or more point in over two years ... The last time it happened was on Dec. 15, 2007, when the Bucs lost to Syracuse 125-75 ... This season, the most points the ETSU defense had allowed was 85, in games at Arkansas and UAB ... For the year, the ETSU defense is giving up an average of just 66.7 points per game.


Hubbard steps up game in 2009-10

Much has been written and reported about junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) and his efforts to improve his offensive game, and those strides have led to some solid numbers ... He currently leads the Bucs with 14.1 points per game and 8.3 rebounds a contest ... while he has posted 13 double doubles on the year, his efforts began to pay off on the offensive end against Chattanooga back on Nov. 17 ... Setting career bests for points (26) and rebounds (13), Hubbard collected his first career double-double against the Mocs ... In addition, he hit his first 3-point shot in three seasons with the Bucs, and didn't stop there -- ultimately finishing with four long-range bombs on the night.


Tubbs getting it done for the Bucs

When junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) transfered out of the University of Alabama and came to ETSU, many expected the athletic guard to provide an immediate impact on the offensive end of the floor ... This has been the case ... Against Charleston, Tubbs posted a game high and career high 29 points in the Bucs win over Charleston (11/25) ... He followed that effort up with 21 points against Arkansas, and a game high 22 points in the loss to Tennessee  ... Currently, Tubbs has eclipsed double-figure scoring in 20 of ETSU's 34 games.


ETSU the "only" A-Sun team picked among

nation's best "Prestige" programs

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (July 22, 2008) - Since the beginning of the modern era for NCAA Division I-A basketball - marked by the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 64 teams in 1984-85 - the ETSU men's basketball program ranks in the Top 30 percent of the 300 programs that were eligible for the postseason at that time, this according to a new "Prestige" ranking released by ... The Buccaneers, who have enjoyed six NCAA Tournament trips, one NIT berth, seven 20-win seasons, and a slew of conference regular season and tournament championships since 1984-85, ranked tied for 82nd out of 300 teams, meaning they were in the Top 27 percent of schools making the list. ETSU was ranked ahead of every current Atlantic Sun Conference team, as well as former Southern Conference rivals Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro. The Bucs also were placed ahead of every current member of the Colonial Athletic Association with the exception of Old Dominion ... In addition, the Bucs ranked ahead of SEC schools such as Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Mississippi State.