JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 29, 2013) – The ETSU men’s basketball team capitalized on Valparaiso’s 18 first-half turnovers, building a 21-point halftime lead and ultimately picking up a 73-62 win over the Crusaders Sunday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
With the victory, the Buccaneers wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule by winning for the seventh time in nine games and improving to 7-6 overall on the season. Meanwhile, Valparaiso – a preseason favorite to win the Horizon League title – fell to 8-7 on the year.
ETSU played its best all-around first half of the season, applying strong defensive pressure, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, and hitting on 12-of-14 free throws to build a 42-21 lead at the break. The Crusaders did manage to rally and made it a seven-point contest at 60-53 with 5:17 left, but the Bucs made clutch shots late to seal the 11-point win.
“Valparaiso is a really good team,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, who collected win No. 299 of his career and No. 196 at ETSU. “I would have taken a one-point win, so to win by 11 feels pretty good. We were thrilled to be up 21 at halftime, but against good teams it’s still scary because you know they will make a run, and they did that tonight. It got tight and down to like a seven-point game, but I was proud of our guys for making plays late to win.”
The Bucs had four players reach double figures in the winning effort, led by a game-high 19 points from junior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.). In addition to Riley’s production, junior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) had 16 points, senior forward Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (Georgetown, S.C.) added 13, and sophomore forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) pitched in 10.
Early on, the Bucs appeared poised to run away with the contest. After falling behind 4-0 in the early going, ETSU’s defensive pressure forced multiple Valpo turnovers, and despite getting out-rebounded 22-12 in the first half, the Bucs still enjoyed a 42-21 advantage at the break.
However, after the intermission the Crusaders opened on a 14-2 offensive run to make it 44-35, and slowly picked away at the ETSU lead to draw to within seven at 60-53 with five minutes left. At that point, back-to-back 3-pointers by KGG and Rembert powered a 7-0 spurt, and the Bucs hit five foul shots down the stretch to end the Valpo threat.
For the game, ETSU shot 48 percent from 3-point range (10-of-21), while holding Valparaiso – a team that entered the game averaging eight made threes a contest – to just 4-of-19 for the game. While the Crusaders did hold a whopping 45-28 edge on the glass, ETSU grabbed 14 steals and forced Valpo into a total of 24 turnover – compared to just nine turnovers for the Bucs.
Valpo was led in scoring by LaVonte Dority with 14, while Alec Peters and Vashil Fernandez had 13 and 10 points, respectively.
With their non-conference schedule now complete, the Bucs will return to action as they hit the road to open up Atlantic Sun Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 4 at Kennesaw State. Tip is set for noon inside the KSU Convocation Center.
For more on ETSU men’s hoops throughout the 2013-14 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.