JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 11, 2003) - Even though his team improved to 2-1 in Southern Conference play and won its 11th-straight home game dating back to last season, ETSU head basketball coach Ed DeChellis was still shaking his head following the Buccaneers 87-81 win over The Citadel Saturday at Memorial Center.
Giving up a lead of as much as 13 points midway through the second half, the Bucs struggled to put the Bulldogs away and allowed The Citadel to stay within striking distance throughout the contest. It was ETSU's second-straight difficult win at home - the Bucs needed a last-second, tip-in basket last week to defeat UNC Greensboro in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2.
"I don't know if we're just running into hot shooters or if we're making them hot, but we've got to start playing better defense," DeChellis said. "Every time we're on the verge of putting someone away we shoot ourselves in the foot and do something foolish."
Indeed, the Bucs have been an up-and-down team all season, finding their rhythm and building large leads in many games only to see those advantages disappear quickly. It happened again Saturday against the Bulldogs.
After trading baskets throughout the first half and trailing 40-37 at the intermission, ETSU put together an 13-3 offensive spurt at the 15:01 mark of the second half which took a 51-48 game and made it 64-51 with 10:38 left.
However, over the next six minutes The Citadel hit five 3-pointers and methodically cut the lead down to 75-70 with 5:17 left in the game. Four minutes later, a made lay-up by Max Mombollet at the 1:24 mark made it 85-81.
But the Bucs' defense held over the final minute and ETSU managed to get to the free-throw line with Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) and Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) both hitting one-of-two at the charity stripe to make the final 87-81.
ETSU was led offensively by Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) with 19 points and seven rebounds, while true freshman guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) and Wadood pitched in 16 points apiece. Senior guard Ryan Lawson (Rogersville) was the only other Buc to reach double figures with 12 points. Wadood had a game-high nine rebounds and Smith finished with five assists.
"I thought Timmy (Smith) played well and I thought Tiras had a solid game, obviously," DeChellis said.
For The Citadel, Clyde Wormley scored a game-high 23 points, while teammates Gregg Jones, Mombollet and Erick Wilson scored 16, 15 and 10 points, respectively. The Citadel (5-8, 0-2) returns home to face Wofford Monday at 7:15 p.m. in Charleston, S.C.
Meanwhile, the Bucs (8-6, 2-1) will return to action in a regionally-televised game on Comcast Sports South Monday at Memorial Center when they take on SoCon rival College of Charleston at 7:30 p.m. The game is part of a doubleheader, as the ETSU Lady Bucs will meet Western Carolina beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets for the women's game allow fans to sit in Section's M and I for the men's game.