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MOREHEAD, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2014) – Despite losing its starting point guard to an injury early in the game, having its back-up point guard in foul trouble throughout the second half, and shooting just 35.7 percent from the field for the game, the ETSU men’s basketball team still found a way to drop Morehead State 63-59 Monday night inside Johnson Arena.
The Buccaneers can thank junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) and senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) for overcoming all those odds. Wilson made multiple defensive plays down the stretch and hit three straight 3-pointers over the final four minutes to finish with 18 points, while Riley scored a team-high 21 despite playing much of the second half with four fouls.
“What I’m really encouraged by is that we are a better offensive team than defensive, but we are still finding a way to get it done,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team improved to 4-1 on the year and is off to its best start since the 2003-04 season. “If you told me we would go to Winthrop and Morehead State and shoot in the 30s, I would have told you it’s crazy to think we still win. I think that says a lot about this team to win at both those places even though we weren’t in the flow offensively.”
Junior guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) departed the game early in the first half after apparently injuring his left ankle. But fortunately for the Bucs, it was a struggle for both teams offensively before the break.
ETSU did not have a made field goal until a 3-pointer by Riley with 10:48 left before the intermission, but the Eagles were equally ineffective and allowed the Bucs to stay in the game.
ETSU’s scoring attack finally found some rhythm midway through the half and managed a 7-0 run to take a 20-14 lead with 5:30 left before the break. However, Morehead State regained the advantage at 21-20 before the Bucs got a layup from sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.) with 54 seconds left that made it 22-21 at halftime. In the end, the Bucs shot just 25 percent from the field and the Eagles hit on 30 percent of its shots in the first half.
After the break, the Bucs continued to have a hard time scoring the basketball with McClain on the bench and Riley picking up his fourth foul early on in the half. Even so, after falling behind 40-34 the Bucs rallied with a 6-0 run to tie the game at 40 all with 7:32 left.
From there, ETSU fell behind by four at 47-43 but after a pair of free throws from Riley, Wilson blocked a shot on one end of the floor and then sprinted to the other end to sink a corner 3-pointer that gave the Bucs a 48-47 lead with 3:20 left in the game. Wilson followed with two more long range bombs, including one that came with 42 seconds on the clock and made it 59-54.
Morehead didn’t go away at that point, but they were unable to get closer than three over the last minute. In the end, ETSU senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) also joined Riley and Wilson in double figures with 10 points on the night.
The Eagles got a team-high 13 points from Angelo Warner, while teammates Corban Collins and Lyonell Gaines each added 12 points. Morehead finished the night shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 28 percent from 3-point range, while the Bucs at 44 percent from beyond the arc. ETSU did, however, struggle at the line and hit just 25-of-38 shots from the charity stripe.
The Bucs will return to action on Wednesday night, making their return to Southern Conference play when they host Western Carolina at 8 p.m. inside Freedom Hall. That game will be broadcast live on television courtesy of the American Sports Network, and there are multiple ticket promotions available as the Bucs hope to #FillFreedom.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.