JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2015) – Playing without the services of several key contributors, freshman Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) took the opportunity to give ETSU fans a glimpse of the future.
Bradford hit a pressure-packed 3-pointer and scored seven straight points down the stretch, lifting the ETSU men’s basketball team to a 66-59 win over Furman in Southern Conference play Saturday afternoon at Freedom Hall. With the win, ETSU improves to 15-10 overall, 8-7 in SoCon action, while Furman drops to 7-18, 4-10.
The Bucs were without senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) and sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.). Riley missed the game to attend his grandmother’s funeral back home in Milwaukee, while sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.) suffered a knee injury in pregame warm-ups. The Bucs played even more short-handed when sophomore post Isaac Banks (New Orleans) fouled out early in the second half.
“Desonta really came through with the plays of the game,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, referring to Bradford’s 3-pointer that made the game 57-53 with 2:37 left in the contest. “I thought he, Rashawn (Rembert), A.J. (Merriweather) and Lester (Wilson) all played well and made up for what we didn’t have tonight. That was a gutsy performance by a lot of guys.”
Bradford finished the game with 12 points – nine of which came in the final five minutes of play. Meanwhile, Wilson had a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds, while Merriweather and Rembert added 18 and 14 points, respectively.
The Bucs finished the game shooting 48.8 percent from the floor, collecting 14 assists and forcing Furman into 14 turnovers. Furman was led offensively by a game-high 29 points from guard Devin Sibley, while post Kris Acox had a double-double effort with 17 rebounds and 14 points.
While Furman never led in the contest and never tied the game in the second half, the Paladins certainly made it interesting, coming to within one point of the Bucs on two occasions in the final five minutes. However, Bradford’s 3-pointer seemed to end the Furman momentum, allowing the Bucs to pull back ahead by as many as nine late in the contest.
In the first half, the Bucs looked solid offensively despite the absence of both Riley and Harris. ETSU opened with 3-pointers from Wilson and Rembert, ultimately pulling ahead by a score of 13-7 with 15 minutes left before the break.
Furman managed to get back to within two points of the Bucs on multiple occasions but never led in the first half. ETSU finished the half with a 5-0 run to lead 32-24 at the intermission.
In the second half, the Bucs stayed hot offensively and used a 7-0 run to start the half and lead by as many as 15 at 39-24 with 17:43 left in regulation. The Bucs maintained a double digit lead until the 11-minute mark, when Furman used a 12-4 run to make it 49-45 with 8:35 left. The Paladins eventually made it 52-51 and 54-53, but could not get any closer in the final two minutes of play.
With ETSU’s win and Western Carolina’s loss, the Bucs are now tied for fourth place with the Catamounts, but hold the tiebreaker over WCU by virtue of two wins earlier in the season.
The Bucs will return to Freedom Hall for their final regular season home game of the season on Monday night, hosting non-conference opponent Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.