MACON, Ga. (March 4, 2011) - The ETSU men's basketball team had never lost to North Florida. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, that is no longer the case.
Despite struggling offensively throughout the contest and trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, junior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) still had a potential game-tying attempt miss the mark with 20 seconds left and the Bucs fell to North Florida 59-55 Friday in the semifinals of the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Championships at Mercer's University Center.
The Bucs, who were 11-0 all-time against UNF entering Friday's game, dropped to 22-11 overall and will now wait to see if there will be another postseason opportunity for them this season. Meanwhile, North Florida improved to 15-18 on the season.
"We're obviously very disappointed, but give North Florida credit for playing well enough to win," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team's seven-game win streak in A-Sun Tournament play came to an end. "Certainly our goaI every year is to make the NCAA Tournament, but I don't think we're done playing this year. There will be more opportunities for our seniors and I think they deserve it because we didn't just have a good year - we had a great year. Tonight we just didn't get it done."
Senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) did all he could to break the Bucs out of their offensive funk, scoring a game-high 20 points. However, it was not enough to overcome a 35.2 percent shooting percentage and hitting on just 12.5 percent from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, North Florida had four players in double figures, with both Parker Smith and David Jeune leading the way with 13 points apiece.
As in their quarterfinal game against Campbell, the Bucs struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the first half and the Ospreys took advantage. With the game tied at 19-19, UNF manufactured a 10-1 run to take its largest lead of the game at 29-20 and seemed to be pulling away. However, ETSU responded with its own 7-2 in the final two minutes to make it 31-27 at the break.
In the first half, the Bucs shot 40 percent from the floor (10-of-25), but out-rebounded the Ospreys 16-11. A huge advantage for UNF was its bench production, as the Ospreys' reserves outscored ETSU 14-2.
After the intermission, ETSU scored first to get within two, but once again the Bucs' offense could not muster any efficiency and UNF pulled back ahead by nine at 48-39 with 9:42 left in the game. A 3-pointer by Tubbs finally seemed to ignite the Bucs' spirits with just under nine minutes left, as ETSU went on a 9-2 run and made it 50-48 with 3:12 remaining in the contest.
UNF ultimately led by five at 55-50 with 2:02 left, but ETSU managed to cut the lead to one at 56-55 with 32 seconds on the clock. After Juene hit one of two free throws, Sollazzo raced to the other end of the floor and put up a shot from in front of the rim, but with 14 seconds on the clock it rimmed out.
Juene then iced the game with a pair of makes at the free throw line.
For the game, UNF held a 19-5 advantage in bench points, while ETSU outscored the Ospreys 32-22 in the paint. The Bucs outrebounded UNF 59-55, but had just five assists on the night compared to 12 for the Ospreys.
ETSU was just 2-of-16 from 3-point range on the night.
For more on ETSU men's basketball as it prepares for posteason play, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.