CANCUN, Mexico (Dec. 24, 2010) - Wishing for some early Christmas cheer in the form of a solid performance on the court, the ETSU men's basketball team made it happen Friday in the third round of the Cancun Governor's Cup at the Poliforum Benito Juarez.
Powered by a double-double performance from senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) that included a game-high 20 points and career-high 16 rebounds, the Buccaneers also utilized an effective man-to-man defense and a 16-point first half offensive run to drop former Southern Conference rival Appalachian State decisively in a 79-51 blowout.
"That was probably our best 39 minutes of basketball this season," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 5-7 on the season. "We really debated it all night about whether to go zone or man. We decided to go with the 3-2 zone and one minute later it was 5-0 and they had made two baskets. We called time out and went man the rest of the way.
"Offensively, things just look better when you're making shots. Mike was just phenomenal, and other guys really stepped up too. It was big to get out of here with a win."
Smith was certainly not alone on the offensive end, as junior forward Isiah Brown (Miami) scored 16, junior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) netted 14, and senior guard Micah Williams (Manchester) had 13. The Bucs also shot 57 percent from the floor, 43 percent from 3-point range, and 74 percent from the foul line for the game.
Meanwhile, they held Appalachian to just 32 percent shooting from the floor and 29 percent from beyond the arc. More impressively, the Bucs outrebounded the Mountaineers 39-26 for the game.
Appalachian State did take advantage of the zone in the early going and led 5-0 with 18:43 left in the first half. However, Bartow took timeout at that point and did make the defensive switch, while also allowing the Bucs to use their fullcourt press defense.
The combination worked in tandem with an efficient offense, as the Bucs responded with a 16-0 run over the next three minutes of play. Appalachian would get back to within six points at 25-19 but that would be as close as they would get the rest of the game, as ETSU manufactured another 9-0 run later in the half to build a 45-26 advantage.
In the second half, ETSU never let up and the Mountaineers got no closer than 14 at 51-37 with 14:53 remaining.
For the Mountaineers, Omar Carter led the way with 16 points, while Nathan Healy had 14.
The Bucs, who finished 1-2 in the Cancun event, will return home on Christmas day and plan to enjoy a few days off for the holiday break. They will return to work later in the week to prepare for the return of Atlantic Sun Conference action, as the Bucs return to the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center to take on league foe Campbell on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.
For more on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.