BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Jan. 5, 2015) – In a game that saw 14 lead changes and 11 ties, the ETSU men’s basketball team made a critical defensive stop at the buzzer and survived a road trip to Samford with a 76-74 win over the Bulldogs in Southern Conference play Monday evening inside the Pete Hanna Center.
Trailing by three at 72-69 with 2:34 left on the clock, senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) hit a clutch 3-pointer, blocked a shot by Samford’s Christen Cunningham, grabbed the defensive rebound and then found fellow senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) with an outlet pass that led to a pair of free throws.
At that point the Bucs led 74-72, but then after trading foul shots, it was the Bucs who got a final defensive stop by forcing a miss by Cunningham as the buzzer sounded. With the win, ETSU improves to 8-4 overall, 3-1 in SoCon play, while Samford drops to 7-10, 0-4.
“That was just a huge set of plays by Rashawn,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team shot 46 percent from the field and 53 percent from the 3-point arc for the game. “Guys like Rashawn, Jalen and Lester (Wilson) just made big plays down the stretch. It’s hard to win games, especially on the road, so we’re happy to get this one.”
It was a night for offense, as the Bulldogs matched the Bucs shooting effort by hitting on 55 percent of their shots from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range. From the foul line, the Bucs also went 16-of-20 (80 percent), while Samford was 17-of-23 (74 percent) from the charity stripe.
On the night, Riley finished with a game-high 26 points, Rembert netted 18, Wilson finished with 17, and sophomore forward A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) had 10. For Samford, Marcus Johnson led the way with 20 points, while three other Bulldogs reached double figures.
It was the first time this season the Bucs have won after trailing at halftime. Samford led 34-32 at the break.
ETSU started strong of the offensive end and built an early lead of 15-5 thanks to eight points from Rembert. Samford cut that advantage to just two at 15-13 with 13 minutes left in the half, and the Bulldogs were able to stay within a single possession of the Bucs for the next seven minutes of game play.
At that point, the Bucs used a 7-0 run to match its largest lead of the game at 32-22, but Samford responded by closing out the first half on a 12-0 run itself and led 34-32 at the break. Both teams shot well in the first half, with ETSU hitting on a 52 percent clip from the field and the Bulldogs finishing at 55 percent.
After the intermission, both teams traded the lead back and forth over the first eight minutes of play and found the game tied at 51 with 11:44 left in regulation. The game stayed that way for the next 10 minutes before Rembert provided the most important sequence of the contest.
Trailing 72-69, Rembert made a 3-pointer and then blocked the shot of Cunningham. He grabbed the rebound and passed to Riley, who was fouled on the other end and ultimately made a pair of free throws to make it a 74-72. Both teams then fouled on four consecutive possessions, leaving the game at 76-74 in favor of the Bucs with 18 seconds left.
Samford had the final possession, but after working for a good shot, Cunningham fired and missed as time expired, and Merriweather pulled down the defensive rebound to secure the win.
The Bucs will return home for a critical pair of SoCon games later this week, beginning with a visit from former Atlantic Sun Conference rival Mercer at 7 p.m. inside Freedom Hall. Longtime SoCon rival Chattanooga will then arrive for a Saturday matchup at 4 p.m.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.