GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 12, 2015) – It may not have been pretty at times, but somehow, someway the ETSU men’s basketball team got it done.
Despite being outscored 30-7 during one stretch in the middle of the game, the Buccaneers never relented, methodically battling back and overcoming a 12-point second half deficit to down UNC Greensboro 65-62 Thursday night in Southern Conference hoops action at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Utilizing a smaller lineup and going to its pressure defensive package seemed to energize the Bucs midway through the second half, as ETSU rallied from a 42-30 deficit to pick up the victory. The Bucs were led by a game-high 21 points from senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), while sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.) finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for his third career double-double effort.
“This says a lot about our team,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 14-10 overall, 7-7 in SoCon play. “We just never gave up and kept coming. At that point when we were outscored 30-7 and we’re struggling to score, it would have been easy to fold – but we didn’t. I’m proud of our guys.”
After Riley made a pair of free throws and then hit a 3-pointer to make it 63-58 with 2:30 left in the game, the Bucs still had to hold on for the win. With the game 63-62 in favor of ETSU, senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to make it a 65-62 contest. UNCG had two opportunities to hit a 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds, but both shots missed the mark.
For the game, ETSU shot just 34.5 percent from the field and were an uncharacteristic 3-of-18 from 3-point range (17 percent). However, the Bucs did out-rebound the Spartans 37-29 and forced UNCG into 16 turnovers. ETSU also outscored the Spartans 28-18 in the paint and 39-17 in bench points.
In the first half, the Bucs played a solid 15 minutes and led by as many as 11 at 23-12. During that stretch, ETSU controlled the glass and held a 19-12 rebounding on the boards at halftime.
However, after struggling with their outside shooting early in the game, the Spartans began connecting from the outside over the last five minutes of the half, scoring on six straight possessions. In the end, UNCG enjoyed an 18-5 run that included five straight 3-pointers and a four-point play on the final long range shot of the burst. When the smoke cleared, the Spartans took a 30-28 lead into the locker room.
It didn’t get any better for the Bucs in the early going of the second half, as UNCG outscored ETSU 12-2 in the first eight minutes and led 42-30 with 12 minutes left in the game. In all, the Spartans outscored the Bucs 30-7 over 18 minutes of game play covering two halves.
However, at that point Riley hit a pair of free throws to make it 42-32 and from there the Bucs went on a 15-5 run to tie the game at 47. It was a back and forth game at that point before Riley went on a 10-2 run on his own, capped by the 3-pointer that made it 65-62.
Along with Riley and Harris, the Bucs got 11 points from sophomore guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson), which included a pair of dunks on back-to-back possessions during the ETSU rally. For the Spartans, Kayel Locke led the way with 17 points, while Tevon Saddler added 11.
The Bucs will now return to Freedom Hall for their final two homes games of the year, beginning with a matchup against SoCon foe Furman Saturday at 4 p.m. That game will be part of a doubleheader on ESPN3, as the ETSU women will host Western Carolina earlier in the day at 1 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.