Bucs outlast Mercer in A-Sun opener, 76-70

Thursday, November 30, 2006

(Nov. 30, 2006) - In a 68-68 game with just over two minutes left, freshman guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) made two buckets, senior forward Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) blocked a Mercer shot that would have tied the game with 28 seconds remaining, and sophomore guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) hit four straight free throws down the stretch to give ETSU a 76-70 win over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference opener for both teams Thursday night at the University Center.


With the win, the Bucs move to 4-4 overall, 1-0 in A-Sun play, while the Bears dropped to 1-4, 0-1. Nuckles was one of several Bucs to provide significant contributions to the effort, leading with a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a season high for blocks with five. It was the eighth double-double in Nuckles' career.


"It's good any time you can win on the road," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "I think our fans know how good Georgia Southern's teams can be, and they came in here earlier this week and squeaked out a two-point win. Two things jump out tonight, we cut down our turnovers and Brad Nuckles played like he's capable of playing."


The Bucs led by as many as nine points midway through the second half, but an 11-2 run by the Bears made it 68-68 with 2:13 remaining in the game. ETSU made the plays down the stretch, including a pair of baskets by Smith at the 1:54 and 1:21 mark that made it 72-68. However, the biggest play of the game may have been the Nuckles' block, which came with 28 seconds remaining as Mercer's James Florence seemed to be driving for an open lay up. The Bears were left needing to foul and Pigram iced the game with four straight makes at the line.


In the first half, the Bucs shot 50 percent from the floor, grabbed 10 steals and forced 11 Mercer turnovers, building a lead of as many as six points by the intermission at 38-32. ETSU was led in the first half by Nuckles with eight points and six rebounds, while Mercer stayed in the game thanks to a 3-for-7 effort from 3-point range by Ross Alacqua, who finished with a team-high nine points at the break. 


For the game, several Bucs put together solid efforts. Along with Nuckles, Smith and Pigram both posted 13 points, while sophomore guard Tayloe Taylor (Memphis) pitched in 11. Taylor played his most complete game ever, dishing out seven assists and grabbing three steals with only two turnovers.


Mercer was led by 19 points from guard Ross Alacqua, while James Florence, Calvin Henry and Shaddean Aaron scored 15, 13 and 10 points, respectively.


The Bucs return to A-Sun action Saturday night at Stetson in Deland, Fla. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be available via live video streaming at the Stetson athletic website, www.stetson.edu/athletics.

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