FORT MYERS, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2010) - Overcoming a 10-minute offensive drought to start the game, the ETSU men's basketball team employed its pressure defense to wake up from the lull and snap a two-game losing streak with a 56-47 win over Florida Gulf Coast in Atlantic Sun Conference play Thursday night at Alico Arena.
The Bucs (12-12 overall, 8-5 A-Sun) fell behind 10-1 and did not score its first field goal until the 10:16 mark of the first half. However, the team turned it around in time, getting strong offensive nights from a pair of Florida natives, as sophomore forward Isiah Brown (Miami) posted a game high 17 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) added seven points, three assists and four steals in 26 minutes of play.
"Bottom line was our defense held us in there," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "We could have easily been down 20-1 to start the game, but fortunately our defense kept us in there and we got a good lift out of our bench. Isiah just keeps getting better and putting up numbers right now, and Adam did some nice things for us."
The first half began with the ETSU offense in a deep freeze despite the 80 degree temperatures of South Florida. In fact, the Buccaneers fell behind 10-1 and did not score a field goal until Sollazzo picked off a pass and dunked it home with 10:16 left in the first half.
ETSU finally got its offense going thanks to its defense, as the Bucs utilized their aggressive, trapping halfcourt defense to force FGCU (7-16, 4-10) into 15 turnovers in the first half. Slowly, ETSU chipped away at the deficit and ultimately took the halftime lead at 26-24 on a pair from free throws from junior guard De'Shaud Johnson (Riverdale, Ga.) with 4.8 seconds left in the half.
The Bucs were outrebounded 17-11 in the first half, but outscored FGCU 15-8 off turnovers. ETSU also held the Eagles to 20 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, and the Bucs ultimately shot 40.9 percent from the field in the first half despite the slow start offensively.
In the second half the Bucs built their largest lead of the game so far at 31-28, but the Eagles came right back to retake the advantage 32-31 on a pair from free throws from Eddie Murray with 15:01 left in the game. From there, however, the Bucs once again went to the pressure defense and took a four-point lead at 36-32 on a dunk by Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) with 13:53 left.
FGCU responded to tie it at 36-36 on a pair of baskets by Hunter Miller, but from there Brown scored nine of the Bucs next 20 points as ETSU outscored the Eagles 20-11 the rest of the way for the win.
The Bucs only had two players in double figures, with Brown being joined by junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) with 10 points. ETSU finished the game shooting 47 percent from the floor, while holding the Eagles to just 39 percent for the game. FGCU did have the rebounding edge 32-27, but the Bucs forced 24 turnovers on 10 steals.
ETSU will continue on the road this weekend, returning to action Saturday at Stetson. The Bucs and Hatters are scheduled to tip at 7 p.m. in Deland, Fla.
For more on ETSU men's basketball throughout the 2009-10 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.