|February 25, 2018||1st||2nd||Final|
|Stats at a Glance||FUR||ETSU|
|FG Percentage||.453 (24-53)||.509 (29-57)|
|3P FG Percentage||.500 (10-20)||.333 (6-18)|
|FT Percentage||.750 (21-28)||.632 (12-19)|
- 17||Desonta Bradford
Matt Rafferty - 6
- 5||Bo Hodges
- 3||Jermaine Long
Geoff Beans - 1
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 25, 2018) – Leading by five with four minutes left on its home court, the ETSU men’s basketball had a Southern Conference regular season title within reach. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, it was not meant to be.
Hitting three 3-pointers down the stretch – including one that turned into a four-point play following an ETSU foul – the Furman Paladins rallied to take a 79-76 win over the Bucs in the regular season finale for both teams Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall. ETSU battled to the end, but senior Devontavius Payne (Carbondale, Ill.) had his game-tying 3-point attempt rim out at the buzzer, as the Bucs fell to 23-8 overall, 14-4 in SoCon play.
With the loss, the Bucs will be the No. 2 seed in the SoCon Tournament and open play at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening inside the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C., facing the winner of Friday’s first round matchup between No. 7 Samford and No. 10 Chattanooga. Meanwhile, the Paladins improved to 22-9, 13-5, and earned the No. 3 seed, facing No. 6 Western Carolina in the 8:30 p.m. nightcap on Saturday.
“Going down the stretch I felt good up five and the crowd was really into it,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes. “But they made three 3s down the stretch that hurt us, and 3-pointers have been a real issue for us these last three games. It’s my fault. I’m in charge of the program. This is the first time we’ve lost three in a row since early in the 2015 season, so that’s on me. We’ve got to find a way to finish and get this thing turned around in Asheville.”
On a day when the Bucs honored eight seniors who played their final game inside Freedom Hall, it was senior guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) who tried to will ETSU to a win, scoring a game high 19. Of those points, most of them came in the final 10:14 of the contest after the Bucs had fallen behind by eight at 60-52. Bradford scored 17 of the Bucs final 24 points and powered a 17-4 run that staked the Bucs to their 69-65 lead.
Along with Bradford, fellow seniors David Burrell (Milwaukee), Jalan McCloud (Fort Worth, Texas) and Devontavius Payne (Carbondale, Ill.) also posted strong numbers. Burrell finished with 15 points and six rebounds, while both McCloud and Payne collected 13 points each.
For Furman, five players reached double figures, led by senior guard Devin Sibley’s 17.
In the first half, the Bucs shot 53 percent from the field, but allowed Furman to stay in the game due to 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. In addition, Furman held a decisive advantage at the foul line, where the Paladins went 12-of-12 compared to the Bucs 1-of-2 clip. After falling behind by eight at 34-26, the Bucs rallied to outscore the Paladins 13-6 and trail by only one at 40-39 by the break.
The Bucs finished the game shooting 51 percent from the field, but Furman matched that number with a 50 percent clip of its own from 3-point range (10-of-20). ETSU outscored the Paladins 44-20 in the paint.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2018 postseason, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.