FT. MYERS, Fla. (Dec. 3, 2011) – A change in defensive strategy gave the ETSU men’s basketball team a chance – but it was not enough.
After watching Florida Gulf Coast exploit their zone defense time after time Saturday afternoon and build a 12-point, second-half lead, the Buccaneers’ made a change to man-to-man and rallied to make it a two-point game. However, the Eagles managed to make critical plays down the stretch to hold off the Bucs’ rally and capture a 72-63 Atlantic Sun Conference victory inside Alico Arena.
With the loss, ETSU dropped to 3-4 overall, 0-2 in A-Sun play. The Bucs also lost for the third straight game, and this is the first time since 2005 ETSU has started the A-Sun slate at 0-2.
Meanwhile, FGCU improved to 3-5, 1-0.
"It's a tough loss - the road is a tough place and you have to play really well on the road to win," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "We are close and I am not at all panicing about our team, but we obviously have some things to correct. Once we get some things corrected we are going to win a lot of games. I like our team and I think we have a chance to have a good team, but when you go on the road you have to play well. We are still turning the ball over too much and our defense was not great tonight - we have four or five areas we need to improve in and once we do that, the result will start taking care of itself."
The first half opened with FGCU using an ETSU-style fullcourt press to disrupt the Bucs’ offensive efforts. That approach worked well for the Eagles, who forced four early turnovers and jumped out to a 12-4 lead just three minutes into the game.
FGCU did not stop there, as the Bucs’ zone defense was ineffective for the third straight game and allowed the Eagles to build a lead of as many as 14 points at 34-20 with 5:14 left. Fortunately for ETSU, the Bucs did manage to outscore FGCU 8-2 to close out the half and make it 36-28 at the break.
In the second half, FGCU’s Christophe Varidel hit a pair of 3-pointers in the early going and helped the Eagles back out to a 51-39 lead with 13:12 left in the game. However, at that point the Bucs made their defensive adjustment.
Changing from a zone to a man-to-man defense, the Bucs finally made some much-needed defensive stops and re-energized their offensive attack. Most importantly, ETSU went on to outscore FGCU 18-8 over the next eight minutes to make it 59-57 with five minutes left.
While it was still 61-59 with just over four minutes left, ETSU was unable to get any closer and the Eagles outscored the Bucs 11-4 the rest of the way.
The Bucs were led offensively by guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa), who scored a team-high 17 points, while senior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston) had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. FGCU was led by Sherwood Brown’s 20 points.
While the Bucs out-rebounded the Eagles 40-28 and shot a much-improved 70 percent from foul line, it was other areas that cost the Bucs on this night. FGCU shot a strong 54 percent from the field, while ETSU hit on just 35 percent of its field goal attempts. The Eagles also shot 40 percent from the 3-point stripe (8-of-20).
ETSU will return to action Wednesday evening on the road at Ohio Valley Conference for Tennessee Tech. Tip is set for 8:30 p.m. (EST) in Cookeville. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2011-12 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.