JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2014) – Sophomore forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) scored a career-high 31 points and the ETSU men’s basketball team finished just one 3-pointer shy of the school’s single-game record, but those offensive numbers were not enough in a 91-86 loss to Atlantic Sun Conference foe Jacksonville Thursday evening inside Swisher Gym.
Poor defensive play doomed the Bucs, as the Dolphins shot 55 percent from the field, 53 percent from 3-point range, and scored 57 points in the second half to overcome a seven-point halftime deficit. For JU, guard Jarvis Haywood led five Dolphins’ players in double figures, netting a team-high 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
With the loss, ETSU drops to 16-13 overall, 9-7 in A-Sun play, while Jacksonville improved to 10-16, 6-9.
“This is disappointing because we just couldn’t get any stops defensively,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team also tied the school’s single-game record for free throw percentage by hitting 18-of-18 at the line “Now we just have to regroup and prepare for North Florida on Saturday. That’s now a huge game for us.”
Along with Wilson’s 31 points, the only other player in double figures for ETSU was junior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) with 17 points. As a team, the Bucs were 14-of-31 from 3-point range, nearly tying the school record of 15 for a game.
In the first half, the Bucs hit their first five 3-point attempts and shot an impressive percentage to build a nine-point lead at 30-21. The Dolphins battled back to within four at 32-26, but ETSU held a 41-34 advantage at the break.
Before the intermission, ETSU shot 53 percent from 3-point range and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, with Wilson leading the way with 14 points and Riley adding 10. The Bucs’ bench also outscored the Dolphins 24-11 in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, JU wasted little time tying the game by going on a 7-0 run to make it 46-46 with 16:52 left on the clock. Later, with ETSU leading 56-52, the Dolphins again put together an 11-0 run to take a 63-56 lead with 9:55 left.
The Bucs methodically battled back and regained the lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) and Wilson made it 71-70. However, JU responded with back-to-back bombs of its own to take back a five-point edge at 78-73.
ETSU got to within one at 83-82 with 1:36 left, but Haywood hit one of his two 3-pointers at that point and the Bucs never could rally from there.
As a team, JU out-rebounded the Bucs 36-26 and outscored the Bucs 24-18 in the paint. Meanwhile, the ETSU bench outscored the Dolphins 50-17 for the game.
The Bucs will stay in Jacksonville for the weekend, heading across town to take on North Florida Saturday at 7 p.m. inside the UNF Arena. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2013-14 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.