JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2015) – Chattanooga’s Casey Jones had made only one 3-point shot in the last two seasons. Unfortunately for the ETSU men’s basketball team, his second came at a terrible time.
Jones connected on an NBA-range 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in overtime, handing the Mocs a 74-71 win over the Buccaneers in this longtime Southern Conference rivalry matchup Saturday afternoon inside Freedom Hall. With the loss, ETSU drops to 9-5 overall, 4-2 in SoCon play, while UTC improves to 11-7, 4-1.
“We’ve had a lot of close games so far this year and we’ve won our share of them, but this time it didn’t go our way,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “It’s a tough one for us, but it’s not the end of the world. Every game in the league is important, so we just need to get back to work. I thought that last possession we played pretty good defense. Jones just made a tough shot.”
The game lived up to the rivalry’s history, as the Bucs had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) missed the mark on a 3-point attempt as time expired. In the overtime period, ETSU tied the game at 71-71 with 49 seconds left following a traditional 3-point play from sophomore guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson).
ETSU then forced a miss from UTC’s Eric Robertson with 21 seconds left, but Jones made another key play by grabbing the offensive rebound. That set up his heroics following a timeout by Chattanooga head coach Will Wade.
For the Bucs – a team that entered the game second in the league in free throw shooting percentage – a 9-of-20 effort from the foul line (45 percent) didn’t help the cause against the Mocs. In addition, the Bucs – who also entered the game averaging over 11 made 3-pointers a game – looked on as Chattanooga used that same approach to hit 14 threes on the night. ETSU finished with an 8-of-20 clip from beyond the arc.
For UTC, Robertson finished with a game-high 20 points, while teammates Ronrico White and Martynas Bareika scored 16 and 13 points, respectively. For the Bucs, Riley finished with a team-high 18 points, while junior Lester Wilson (Knoxville) netted 15 and senior Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) pitched in 14.
The Mocs came out firing from long range in the first half, led by four 3-pointers from White, who finished with 15 points in the first half to lead all scorers. Chattanooga led by as many eight at 17-9 with 13:08 left before the break, but that Bucs used an 11-2 run late in the half to grab the lead at 28-25.
Chattanooga answered and managed to lead 31-30 at the intermission. Both teams shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half, while the Bucs held a 19-15 advantage on the boards.
After the break, the Mocs continued to try and limit the Bucs’ shots from 3-point range but ETSU ultimately got a pair of makes from Rembert and Wilson that helped the Bucs pull ahead at 48-44 with 10 minutes left in regulation.
Chattanooga came back to take the lead again at 50-49 and the Bucs later regained the advantage at 61-60 on a basket by Riley. Robertson answered with a three to make it 63-61 before Rembert hit a jumper with 46 seconds left to make it 63-63. ETSU held on the defensive end at that point, but then Riley’s potential game-winner missed the mark, sending the game into overtime.
ETSU out-rebounded the Mocs 41-39 for the game, while also outscoring the Mocs 32-14 in the paint and 28-8 in bench points. However, despite those numbers the Mocs finished ahead where it mattered most.
The Bucs will get a four-day break before returning to Southern Conference play on Thursday, Jan. 15 at Western Carolina. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Cullowhee, N.C.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.