KNOXVILLE (Dec. 31, 2014) – Leading by four points midway through the second half, the ETSU men’s basketball team suffered through an eight-minute scoring drought, allowing SEC opponent Tennessee to regain the lead and escape with a 71-61 non-conference victory over the Buccaneers Wednesday afternoon inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Bucs (6-4) led 56-52 with 9:39 left, but did not hit another field goal until 1:07 left in regulation. During that time, Tennessee – which finished with a 38-20 rebounding advantage for the game – used its size advantage to go on a 19-5 run and close out the game. ETSU did hit an impressive 13 3-pointers in the contest, but it was not enough to upend the Volunteers, who improved to 8-4 on the year.
“We felt like we were in really good shape 30 minutes into the game, but we just had a really bad last 10 minutes,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We are undermanned inside and that showed tonight, but it doesn’t mean we can’t win games. We still had the lead midway through the second half tonight, but things didn’t go the way we wanted down the stretch.”
Senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) had seven of the Bucs’ 13 made 3-pointers, scoring a game-high 21 points, while junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) hit four threes and finished with 16. For Tennessee, All-SEC guard Josh Richardson had a team-high 19 points, while post Armani Moore netted 13 and Derek Reese added 12.
The Bucs got off to a great start, as Rembert hit three straight 3-pointers and a thunderous dunk by A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) helped ETSU build an early 13-0 lead. Tennessee responded though, putting together a 22-7 run over the next 10 minutes to take the advantage 22-20 with seven minutes left before the half.
Tennessee’s lead grew to as many as seven at 32-25 before Rembert closed the half with another pair of 3-pointers to make it 32-31 at the break. In the first half, the Bucs shot 41 percent from 3-point range and Rembert led the way with a game-high 18 points.
ETSU’s 3-point attack caught fire again early in the second half, as Rembert connected for his seventh three of the game and Wilson hit a pair, pushing the Bucs back out to a 44-40 lead with 14:57 remaining in regulation.
The Bucs continued to answer Tennessee’s offensive punches over the next six minutes, but with 7:17 left on the clock, the Vols did manage to finally take a 57-56 lead on a layup by Reese. The UT lead ultimately grew to eight at 64-56 with three minutes left. ETSU did make it 64-59 following three foul shots by senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wisc.), but that was as close as ETSU would get the rest of the way.
For the game, junior guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) matched his career high with 11 assists. Meanwhile, as a team the Bucs shot 41 percent from 3-point range, while the Vols hit on 50 percent from the field.
The Vols outscored the Bucs 38-14 in the paint, besting the Bucs 12-3 on offensive rebounds. A crowd of 14,245 were on hand for the game.
The Bucs will return to Southern Conference play at home on Friday night, hosting VMI at 7 p.m. inside Freedom Hall. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.