MACON, Ga. (March 2, 2012) – After building a five-point halftime lead, the ETSU men’s basketball team was unable to stop a second-half offensive surge by the Belmont Bruins and ultimately dropped a hard fought 69-61 contest in the semifinals of the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Championships Friday evening inside Mercer’s University Center.
It was the first time in 15 straight games that the Bruins (26-7 overall) had faced a halftime deficit, but ETSU ultimately trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half and was outscored 43-30 after the intermission. The Buccaneers end their season at 17-14 overall.
“I was really proud of our guys and the effort they gave tonight,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “When we got down 12, that’s a situation where a lot of teams just quit and lose by 20 or 30, but this has been the character of this team all year to keep fighting and never give up. We were right there with three minutes to play. It just didn’t go our way.”
The Buccaneers were led by a team-high 16 points from senior guard Adam Sollazzo (Tampa), while fellow senior guard Tommy Hubbard (Boston) and junior guard Marcus Dubose (Hartsville, S.C.) netted 15 points apiece.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, foul trouble haunted senior forward Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) throughout the game, and he ultimately fouled out of the contest having only played 24 minutes and scoring just three points.
In the first half, the Bucs played inspired basketball, out-rebounding the Bruins 21-12 and holding one of the nation’s top offenses to 36.4 percent shooting. The Bucs – who outscored Belmont 18-6 in the paint during the first 20 minutes – only trailed once at 8-7, but ultimately led by as many as eight points before the intermission.
The Bruins managed to cut the lead to 24-22 with 3:01 left in the half, but from there the Bucs went on a 7-4 run to end the half, a spurt that was capped by a banked-shot 3-pointer by Hubbard as the shot clock expired.
After the break, the Bruins opened with an 11-3 run and later used another 15-6 surge to make it 54-42 with just over eight minutes left in the game. ETSU did not crack though, putting together its own 14-5 run to make it 59-56 with 2:55 left in the game.
At that point, a made 3-pointer by Belmont’s Kerron Johnson was decisive and put Belmont back on top by six with 2:32 left. However, the Bucs later had a chance to get within two points with 23 seconds remaining, but trailing 66-61 a 3-point attempt by Dubose rimmed out and effectively ended ETSU’s chances.
After holding Belmont to 36 percent shooting from the floor and 31.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, the Bruins shot a blistering 58.3 percent from both the floor and 3-point range after the break.
ETSU held a 38-28 advantage on the boards, and outscored the Bruins 32-18 in the pain. The Bucs also outscored the Bruins 19-9 on second chance points.
For Belmont, Ian Clark led all scorers with 19 points, while Johnson finished with 12 points.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the off season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.