JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 2, 2015) – In a matchup featuring the nation’s top two teams in 3-pointers made per game, it was ultimately transition scores, dunks and layups that made the difference for the ETSU men’s basketball team Friday night inside Freedom Hall.
Shooting 49 percent from the field while hitting on just four 3-pointers for the game, the Buccaneers’ got a career high 32 points from senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) and a double-double effort of 17 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson), as ETSU picked up a 98-88 win over Southern Conference foe VMI.
Along with Riley and Merriweather, fellow Bucs Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.), Lester Wilson (Knoxville) and Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) also reached double figures, as the Bucs improved to 7-4 overall, 2-1 in SoCon action. With the loss, VMI drops to 5-9, 1-2.
“We thought guys like Jalen and A.J. would be able to score and get to the basket tonight,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team typically averages 12 made 3-pointers per game. “VMI is a dangerous team and they like to press, so we knew we might have a chance to get some good looks at the rim. Jalen, in particular really took advantage of that style. It worked out for us tonight.”
In all, the Bucs would outscore VMI 48-28 in the paint and 38-16 in fast break points as ETSU continuously attacked the basket in transition. The Bucs also ended the game outscoring the Keydets – who normally average 12.3 3-pointers per game – by a 50-31 clip in bench points.
The first half was a fast-paced, highly-entertaining 20 minutes, featuring eight ties and three lead changes as both the Bucs and Keydets made the game a track meet. Neither team led by more than single digits, with ETSU building its largest lead at 45-37 with 3:10 left before the break.
VMI was able to make it 50-44 by the intermission despite shooting just 33 percent from the floor, thanks mainly to outrebounding the Bucs 29-19 overall and 16-6 on the offensive glass. Those numbers led to a 17-4 scoring edge in second chance points for the Keydets. Meanwhile, ETSU was able to hold the lead by shooting 50 percent from the floor
After the break, the Bucs used a 17-4 run to build its largest lead of the game at 80-65, but the Keydets answered with a 11-2 run of their own to make it 82-76 with 4:58 remaining in the game. At that point, a thunderous Merriweather dunk haulted the run and the Bucs pulled back ahead by 15 again at 92-77. From there, the Bucs hit their foul shots to put the game away.
After struggling on the boards in the first half, ETSU outrebounded VMI 26-19 in the second half. For VMI, QJ Peterson finished with 16 points to lead six Keydets who reached double figures.
The Bucs will be back in SoCon action on the road Monday night at Samford, with tip set for 8 p.m. (EST). For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.