Bucs fall just short, give Tennessee scare in 93-88 loss
Bucs fall just short, give Tennessee scare in 93-88 loss
Saturday, December 30, 2006

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 30, 2006) - The ETSU men's basketball team used a 16-0 run midway through the first half to take a game that appeared headed to a blowout and made it a dog fight with the 21st-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, eventually leading by as many as six points in the second half but ultimately falling to the Vols 93-88 Saturday night in front of 18,216 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.


The Bucs (8-6) got a career night from junior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.), who posted personal bests with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while four other ETSU players reached double figures to power the ETSU attack. Sophomore guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) pitched in a team-high 19 points, freshman guard Dequan Twilley (Shelbyville) scored a career high 17 points, freshman guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) added 11 points and senior forward Eryk Thomas (Fremont, Calif.) netted 10. ETSU out-rebounded the Vols 35-33, forced 21 turnovers and grabbed 14 steals, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 92 percent from the foul line.


"We competed hard," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "To out-rebound them, force 21 turnovers, and have 15 steals says a lot about our team's heart tonight. We unfortunately came up five points short, but my gosh, I'm proud of our team and the way we battled.


"I think our team is pretty close and tight, and Tennessee is a team that thrives on runs, but we held in there tonight. Games can easily slip on you, but fortunately tonight when we were down we would gradually battle back in."


The Bucs got the game's scoring started thanks to a layup by Reed with just over a minute gone on the clock, but from there Tennessee used a pair of offensive spurts and timely 3-point shooting to build a lead of as many as 18 points at 35-17 with 6:52 left in the half. At that point, though, the Bucs found their game in a big way, outscoring the Vols 16-0 over the next four minutes to cut the UT lead to 35-33 with 1:49 remaining before the intermission. The teams traded baskets from there and finished the half at 41-39.


In the first half, the Bucs forced 16 turnovers and gave up just 12 to a team that prides itself on its pressure defense. ETSU shot 49 percent from the floor before the break, but Tennessee used a 13-of-16 clip from the foul line to enjoy their two-point lead.    


The second half started with a layup by Nuckles to tie the game at 41-41, and the Bucs went on to outscore Tennessee 17-11 for the next six minutes to lead 58-52 with 15:37 left in the game. The Vols answered in convincing fashion at that point with a 24-6 run of their own to hold a 12-point advantage at 76-64 with 9:21 remaining in the contest. The Bucs battled back again to cut the lead to five at 79-74, but were unable to get any closer the rest of the way.


For Tennessee (12-2), Chris Lofton scored a game-high 28 points, while JaJuan Smith added 23. Other Vols to reach double figures included Ramar Smith with 11 points and Dane Bradshas with 10.


The Bucs will take Sunday off, but will return to action in a critical Atlantic Sun Conference matchup Tuesday night against Belmont. Tip is set for 7 p.m. inside Memorial Center.  ETSU will then play Lipscomb at home on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Both Belmont and Lipscomb were preseason favorites - along with ETSU - to battle for the A-Sun title.