KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb. 4, 2012) – With seeding for the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament now a focal point, the ETSU men’s basketball team begins its final month of league play on Saturday, traveling to take on league foe Kennesaw State.
Tip is set for 3 p.m. inside the KSU Convocation Center.
The Bucs find themselves currently in sixth place in the A-Sun standings, but just two games back of third place USC Upstate with eight games to play. On this current road swing, the Bucs will play teams at both ends of the standings, facing a winless KSU squad Saturday followed by a Monday evening matchup with Mercer, the team currently tied atop the standings with Belmont.
For more on Saturday’s game, click on the game notebook link to the right or read the game notes located below. For more on ETSU men’s hoops throughout the 2011-12 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.
We are “ETSU”
The ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics would like to ask both the print and broadcast media to honor our request to be called “ETSU” ... East Tennessee State in first reference is acceptable, but subsequent references should be ETSU ... On TV graphics please use ETSU ... Our nickname is the Buccaneers, but Bucs is also acceptable.
Last time out
JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 30, 2012) – ETSU’s senior class decided three losses in a row was enough. ... Senior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) scored a season high 23 points, while fellow seniors Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) and Tommy Hubbard (Boston) pitched in 19 and 13 points, respectively, as the ETSU men’s basketball team enjoyed a 70-56 victory over Colonial Athletic Association foe James Madison in non-conference hoops action Monday evening inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. ... With the win, ETSU improves to 11-10 on the year, while James Madison drops to 10-13. ... The seniors were certainly impressive, led by Brown’s 23 points, nine rebounds and five steals in just 20 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Sollazzo grabbed five boards and another pair of steals to go with his 19 points, while Hubbard snatched five rebounds, collected four steals and scored 13 points. ... Indeed, the Bucs put together a strong performance, picking up an impressive 18 steals in the game and forcing James Madison into 23 turnovers on the night. ETSU also out-rebounded the Dukes 30-25. ... The Bucs shot an impressive 53 percent from the floor and outscored James Madison 42-20 in the paint, as well as 21-7 on points off turnovers. ... ETSU’s much-maligned offense looked definitively better in the first half of this game, as ETSU raced out to a 15-point edge at 20-5 with 10:47 left before the intermission. Unfortunately for ETSU, the Dukes regrouped at that point and outscored the Bucs 19-11 the rest of the half to cut the deficit to seven at the break, with ETSU leading 31-24. ... In the first half, ETSU shot 52 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range, while forcing James Madison into 14 turnovers on nine steals. The Bucs also held a 15-12 edge on the glass, and outscored the Dukes 20-8 in the paint. ... After the halftime break, the Bucs pulled back ahead by 16 at the 16:22 mark, and the Dukes were unable to get closer than 10 the rest of the way. ... For James Madison, Humpty Hitchens scored a team-high 20 points, while A.J. Davis added 11. No other Dukes’ player reached double figures.
The series versus Kennesaw State
The Bucs are 12-1 all-time against the Owls, including a 73-69 win over Kennesaw State in their last meeting back on Jan. 9, 2012 ... ETSU has won 12 straight in the series.
Last time out against Kennesaw State
JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 9, 2012) – Overcoming an uninspired first half effort, the ETSU men’s basketball team went to a man-to-man defense and turned up the full-court pressure in the second half, rallying for acting head coach Scott Wagers as the Buccaneers enjoyed a 73-69 win over Kennesaw State inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. ... Wagers, who was standing in so head coach Murry Bartow could attend funeral services for his father Gene in Birmingham, Ala., looked on as the Bucs won for the third straight time and improved to 8-7 overall, 3-2 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. Meanwhile, the Owls dropped to 3-14, 0-6. ... The Bucs, who were down by as many as 11 early in the second half, went on a 22-6 run at that point to gain a five-point edge 49-44 with 10 minutes left in the game. From there, KSU went back on top at 54-51, but again ETSU answered the run and led the rest of the way to pick up the victory. ... ETSU’s senior trio of Adam Sollazzo (Tampa), Tommy Hubbard (Boston) and Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) were key to the victory, with Hubbard posting a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, Sollazzo scoring a team-high 20 points, and Brown pitching in 10 points and five boards. ... Meanwhile, Jones – the junior guard from Memphis – scored 13 second-half points, and fellow junior Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) netted 12 points. ... In the first half, Kennesaw State used runs of 9-0 early in the game and another 11-2 spurt in the final five minutes on the half to take a 31-23 advantage at the break. Key to the Owls’ success was a 5-of-11 clip from 3-point range, led by 12 points from guard Spencer Dixon. ... Overall, KSU shot 57 percent from the field in the first half and out-rebounded the Bucs 15-10. Meanwhile, ETSU’s vaunted pressure defense was only able to force seven turnovers off three steals in the opening 20 minutes. ... However, the second half was a different story for ETSU – thanks mainly to a switch from zone to man-to-man, as well as a re-energized full-court defensive attack. Even so, Kennesaw State still led 54-53 with just over five minutes left in the game. ... From there though, the Bucs hit on 12-of-14 shots from the foul line and got timely baskets from Sollazzo, Jones, Cooley and Hubbard in the final minutes.
Bucs lead nation in steals, Cooley ranks 12th
Key to the Bucs’ wins this year has been the ability to swipe the ball from opponents ... Through games of Jan. 2, ETSU ranks No. 1 in the country in steals per game, averaging 10.6 steals a contest ... In fact, in the Bucs’ last game, the team swiped 18 steals against James Madison (1/30) ... Meanwhile, junior Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) has been on a torrid pace this season and a big reason for the Bucs’ success in the steals category, averaging a conference best 2.5 steals per game ... He currently ranks 12th nationally in steals per game. ... The Bucs have three players ranked in the Top 10 among A-Sun Conference players in steals: Cooley (1st, 2.5), Tommy Hubbard (T2nd, 2.0), Adam Sollazzo (5th, 1.8).
Block party for Brown
With a block in last season’s finale against Iona, senior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) set a new school record for blocks in a single season, swatting away a total of 71 shots on the year ... For his career, he now stands third on the all-time list at 173, but is just nine blocks behind the program’s all-time leader Zakee Wadood ... In addition to those marks, Brown’s six-block performance against Belmont last year also matched the program’s single-game record ... At the time, Brown joined six other ETSU players who have had six-block games, including former standouts Brad Nuckles, Eryk Thomas, Jerald Fields, Zakee Wadood, Greg Dennis and Greg Hamlin.
Sollazzo stepping up his offensive game
Senior point guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) has found a strong offensive rhythm in recent games ... In his last 17 games, Sollazzo has scored in double figures 15 times, eclipsing 20 points in five of those games ... Over that time frame, he has averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds, and is shooting 47 percent from the floor. ... Sollazzo currently ranks first on the team in points (15.7 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg), and third in rebounds. (5.5 rpg).
Poderis reaches career mark for rebounds
In recent weeks, junior forward Lukas Poderis (Port Richey, Fla.) has become a truly valuable part of the Buccaneers attack ... In the win over Mercer, Poderis picked up a career high 10 rebounds, and that effort came two days after he matched his career high for points with 14 against USC Upstate ... In the win over Kennesaw State, he posted another nine-rebound effort ... For the year, Poderis is averaging 4.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game.
Bucs showing “flex”-ability with offense
In ETSU’s game against Appalachian State back on Dec. 10, the Bucs debuted a new offensive wrinkle, utilizing one of basketball’s most traditional offenses ... The “flex” is an offense that utilizes multiple screens and a great deal of slashing throughout the paint ... The results were good for the Bucs, who enjoyed several layups and dunks against the Mountaineers, as they won 65-48 to snap a four-game losing streak.
On their way to 1,000 points
As they began their seniors seasons, ETSU’s trio of Isiah Brown, Adam Sollazzo and Tommy Hubbard were all eying the 1,000 point mark for their careers. While Brown has now reached the mark, Hubbard and Sollazzo are still in the hunt. After the Bucs’ last game, here is where each stands:
Adam Sollazzo ................................................................ 897 points
Tommy Hubbard ........................................................... 800 points
To reach 1,000, the three would have to average for the season:
Adam Sollazzo............................................ 14.8 points per game
Tommy Hubbard....................................... 14.7 points per game
Getting to the free throw line a key for the Bucs
In recent years, the Bucs have focused on playing stingy defense, but also driving to the basket on offense and trying to get “tough” points thanks to fouls ... One way for the ETSU coaching staff to determine how successful the Bucs have been is charting free throw attempts and makes ... Well if this statistic is a true indicator, then the Bucs did just as the coaches would like ... Last season, ETSU set a school record for free throw attempts, putting up a total of 856 free tosses ... The Bucs also made their share of those attempts, ranking second on the all-time list with 580 makes ... The 2010-11 edition of the Bucs came up just nine makes short of the all-time record, held by the 1991-92 Bucs at 589. ... This season, after starting out the year shooting poorly from the foul line, the Bucs are have improved those numbers and are now shooting 63 percent for the year as a team.
Florida connection proving valuable to Bucs
For much of the past 10 seasons, the Buccaneers have enjoyed a pipeline of quality players coming from the “Sunshine” state ... A glance at this year’s current roster shows that trend continuing ... Entering Saturday’s game, these have been the contributions of ETSU’s current Floridians:
Adam Sollazzo (Tampa) 15.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists
Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) 9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) 11.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Lukas Poderis (Port Richey, Fla.) 4.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists
In all, ETSU’s Florida players are averaging a combined 40.9 points,
19.4 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 6.2 steals per game so far this season.
Bucs add to postseason resume
The ETSU men’s basketball team has enjoyed its share of postseason success and ranks as one of the nation’s most prestigious basketball programs ... The Buccaneers have earned berths to the NCAA Tournament nine times (1969, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) and NIT twice (1983, 2007) ... In 2011, the Bucs made their first ever appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, winning twice and advancing to the semifinals of that event ... It was the program’s 12th postseason tournament appearance all-time.
ETSU picked among nation’s best “Prestige” programs
Since the beginning of the modern era for NCAA Division I-A basketball – marked by the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 64 teams in 1984-85 – the ETSU men’s basketball program ranks in the Top 30 percent of the 300 programs that were eligible for the postseason at that time, this according to ESPN.com’s “Prestige” ranking released back in 2008 ... Since that time, the Bucs have only added to their list of prestigious honors … The Buccaneers -- who have enjoyed nine NCAA Tournament trips, one NIT and one CIT berth, 14 20-win seasons, and a slew of conference regular season and tournament championships since 1984-85 -- ranked tied for 82nd out of 300 teams, meaning they were in the Top 27 percent of schools making the list. ETSU was ranked ahead of every current Atlantic Sun Conference team, as well as former Southern Conference rivals Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro. In addition, the Bucs ranked ahead of SEC schools such as Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Georgia, Mississippi and Auburn, as well as programs such as Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, DePaul, Bradley, Clemson, California and Florida State.