CANCUN, Mexico (Dec. 22, 2010) - Faced with a matchup against one of the nation's best teams in numerous statistical categories, the ETSU men's basketball team's second half rally came up a little short as Conference USA member Southern Miss dropped the Buccaneers 64-60 in the first round of the Cancun Governor's Cup Wednesday afternoon inside the Poliforum Benito Juarez.
The Bucs, who trailed by 14 at halftime but were able to get within two points late in the second half, fell to 4-6 on the year. Meanwhile, Southern Miss - a preseason favorite in Conference USA - improved to 8-1. ETSU will now play Northeastern at noon (EST) on Thursday in the second round of the Cancun event.
"We need to bottle up what we did in the last 11 to 12 minutes of the game, and if we can, we will win a lot of games and get back to the NCAA Tournament," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "Southern Miss is really good. There's a reason they have wins over California, South Florida and South Alabama. We battled and played with a great sense of urgency in the second half, which I liked to see. Being down 16 to 18 points was just a lot to overcome."
The Bucs had some significant positives in the game, such as outrebounding the Golden Eagles 37-35, as Southern Miss came into the game leading the nation in total rebounding. In addition, the Bucs outscored the Golden Eagles 41-31 in the second half.
Both teams struggled offensively over the first 13 minutes of the game, and ETSU ultimately trailed just 13-12 with 7:52 left before the break. However, at that point Southern Miss' LaShay Page scored eight straight points and helped the Golden Eagles outscore the Bucs 20-7 to build its 33-19 edge at the intermission.
Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) was the story of the second half for the Bucs, scoring 14 straight points in one stretch, which took a 41-25 deficit and made it 46-39. The ETSU run was eventually 20-7 and made it a 48-43 game with just under 11 minutes left in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Southern Miss answered at that point with a 6-0 run of its own to make it 54-43 with seven minutes left. ETSU did not go away, however, keeping the pressure on and going on a 10-2 run to make it 56-53 at the 1:27 mark.
Southern Miss got the advantage back out to 60-53 with just 44 seconds remaining, but the Bucs made one last run capped by a deep three from Micah Williams (Manchester) with six seconds left to make it 62-60. However, the Bucs fouled the Golden Eagles' Angelo Johnson at that point and he hit both foul shots with six seconds left, as the Bucs were unable to pull off the miracle.
For ETSU, Williams led the way with 16 points, while Tubbs finished with 14 and senior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) had 13. Southern Miss got a game-high 19 points from Gary Flowers, while D.J. Newbill had 11 and Page had 10. Flowers also grabbed 10 rebounds to post a double-double.
Buc Bits: The games for the Cancun Governor's Cup are being played on the home floor of Cancun's FIBA professional team - the Cancun Pioneros … The Bucs were without the services of 6-foot-8 junior forward Curtis Wilkinson (Bude, Miss.), who has been back in the United States due to a family illness.