CHATTANOOGA (Feb. 21, 2015) – Shooting just over 13 percent for the first 16 minutes of the second half, the ETSU men’s basketball team relinquished an eight-point halftime lead and ultimately fell to Chattanooga 67-59 in Southern Conference play Saturday night inside McKenzie Arena.
With the loss, the Bucs dropped to 16-11 overall and 8-8 in SoCon play, and are now out of the running for third place in the league standings with Mercer’s win at Samford. Meanwhile, Chattanooga improves to 20-9, 13-3, and remains one game back of Wofford for the top spot in the SoCon.
Senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) led ETSU with a game-high 31 points and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career on a 3-pointer with just 32 seconds left in the game, becoming the second ETSU transfer player to reach 1,000 points. Former Buc great Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) was the first to accomplish that feat from 2007-2009.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Riley did not get much help in the scoring column. Sophomore guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) was the only other Buccaneer player to reach double figures with 12 points and finished with a double-double thanks to 10 rebounds. However, senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) and junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) combined to score just two points, as Rembert was playing in the game despite struggling with an illness over the last several days.
“I thought we played a pretty good first half, and really felt good with the way the game was flowing,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team had entered the game 12-0 on the year when leading at halftime. “The second half we just didn’t play very well. Chattanooga has a nice team and they deserve credit for the way they played.
“Our ball movement was not very good in the second half. We didn’t have Devon Harris and Rashawn obviously was not himself and wasn’t feeling well. We just didn’t get it done in the second half.”
Riley looked ready to play from the outset, scoring 11 of ETSU’s first 17 points as the Bucs built a 17-11 advantage over the first eight minutes of game action. Later on – with the score 21-14 – ETSU went on a four-minute offensive drought and the Mocs capitalized, going on an 8-0 run to take a 22-21 lead thanks to a pair of free throws by Ronrico White with 4:05 left in the first half.
Fortunately for the Bucs, a 3-pointer by freshman guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) finally ignited the Bucs’ offense, which finished the half on a 9-0 run to take a 30-22 lead into the locker room.
Despite the solid first half, the second half was an offensive disaster for the Bucs. Scoring just 12 points over the first 16 minutes of game play after the break, ETSU looked on as Chattanooga took a 52-42 lead and never looked back.
For the game, ETSU shot just 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. Lost in the effort was the Bucs’ defensive play, as UTC shot just 39 percent from the floor and committed 19 turnovers.
UTC was led by White’s team-high 20 points, while teammates Casey Jones and Greg Pryor scored 17 and 11 points, respectively. The Mocs also got a game-high 12 rebounds from Justin Tuoyo.
The Bucs will continue with their season-ending road trip on Thursday, as they travel to Charleston, S.C., to take on The Citadel. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the end of the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.