GREENVILLE, S.C. (Jan. 29, 2015) – Relinquishing a slim lead in the final two minutes, the ETSU men’s basketball team looked on as Southern Conference foe Furman completed an upset victory over the Buccaneers 59-55 Thursday night inside Timmons Arena.
With the loss, the Bucs fall to 12-8 overall, 6-5 in SoCon action, while Furman improves to 7-13, 4-5. ETSU was led in scoring by 21 points from junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville), while the Paladins’ got a double-double effort from junior guard Stephen Croone, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds.
“We had the lead but just didn’t have some good possessions there late in the game,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has lost four of its last six SoCon games. “Right now, we just aren’t scoring the basketball enough, and some of our guys are struggling offensively. On defense, we didn’t get stops. We’ve got to try and figure it out.”
The Bucs led 53-51 with 1:29 left, but at that point, ETSU missed shots on back-to-back possessions and also committed a turnover. The Paladins used those miscues to go on a 6-0 run and take a 57-53 lead with six seconds left. Furman then fouled freshman guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) on a 3-point attempt, and Bradford hit the first two free throws. He intentionally missed the third shot, but the ball was knocked out of bounds off an ETSU hand, ultimately ending any hopes of a miracle comeback.
Along with Wilson, senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) was the only other ETSU player in double figures with 10 points. For Furman, guards Larry Wideman and Devin Sibley had 14 and 11 points, respectively.
For the game, ETSU shot just 38 percent and was only 4-of-6 from the foul line. Meanwhile, the Paladins used a 14-of-22 clip at the charity stripe to overcome an 18-of-44 effort from the field.
In the first half, Furman rushed out to a quick 11-2 lead thanks to three straight 3-pointers from Croone. The Bucs responded with a 10-0 run to take their only lead of the half at 12-11, but Furman ultimately pulled ahead by as many as 10 at 29-19 with just over a minute left before the intermission.
Despite shooting just 33 percent from the field in the first half, the Bucs did close with five straight points to enter the half trailing Furman, 29-24.
After the halftime break, Wilson made three of the Bucs’ four 3-pointers during the opening three minutes of play and powered a surge that gave ETSU only its second lead of the game. The game stayed close the rest of the way until Furman grabbed the late advantage and held on for the win.
The Bucs will be back home to take on non-conference opponent N.C. Central on Saturday, with game time set for 7 p.m. inside Freedom Hall. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.