CLEMSON, S.C. (Jan. 1, 2012) – In a repeat storyline from its loss just over a week ago at Tennessee, the ETSU men’s basketball team had a BCS conference foe on the ropes but was unable to seal the deal Sunday afternoon at Clemson.
Leading by nine points early in the second half, the Buccaneers scored just 17 points over the final 17 minutes as the Tigers turned up their defensive pressure and took a 65-58 victory over ETSU inside Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Bucs, who dropped to 5-7 overall on the season, fell to 0-8 all-time against Clemson and continued a trend of playing the Tigers tough only to fall in the closing minutes on the road. Meanwhile, Clemson improved to 8-6 on the season.
“We’re close, but we just have a few things we need to shore up,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We just didn’t execute offensively, we committed too many turnovers and couldn’t get a defensive stop when we needed it. In both the Tennessee game and this one we played well at times and led by eight and nine in the second half. We aren’t panicking, and I still feel really good about what this team is capable of this year.”
The loss overshadowed another fantastic game for ETSU seniors Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) and Tommy Hubbard (Boston). Sollazzo scored a career high 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists, while Hubbard netted 19 and hauled in eight boards. Meanwhile, Clemson got a game-high 22 points from Devin Booker.
For two teams who have built a reputation this season for strong defense, the game opened with both the Bucs and Tigers shooting lights out from the floor and trading the lead multiple times over the first 10 minutes. ETSU ultimately grabbed the advantage at 21-20 with 9:51 left on the clock and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the half, even though both teams struggled offensively at that point.
In fact, after Clemson tied the game at 28-28, the Bucs closed out the half with four unanswered points highlighted by a traditional three-point play from Hubbard, making it 32-28 at the break. In the first half, ETSU shot 48 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the foul line, while out-rebounding the Tigers 18-14. Sollazzo scored 16 points in the first half, while Hubbard added 13.
Meanwhile, Clemson shot just 37 percent from the floor and 33 percent from 3-point range, but the Tigers forced 11 ETSU turnovers to keep the Bucs from building a larger lead.
In the second half, ETSU opened on a 9-4 run to make it 41-32 with 16:04 left on the clock. However, Clemson ramped up its defensive pressure at that point and used a 12-2 run of its own to regain the lead at 44-43, while also grabbing the momentum in the process with 11 minutes left in the game.
ETSU did not back down though, as a Cooley basket regained the edge for ETSU at 45-44. However, Clemson went back ahead by four at 51-47 with 5:49 left and later pulled ahead by as many as 10 at 65-55.
For the game, ETSU committed 20 turnovers but shot 46 percent from the field and was even on the glass (30-30) with the Tigers. Clemson’s biggest advantage was on second chance points, as the Tigers outscored the Bucs 16-5.
The Bucs will return to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, taking on USC Upstate in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.