CHARLESTON, S.C. (Nov. 15, 2008) - Several defensive stops in the final minutes, a critical steal and two important defensive rebounds by junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.), and a double-double from senior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) led the ETSU men's basketball team to a 65-62 win over SIU Edwardsville in the second round of the Charleston Classic Saturday afternoon inside the Carolina First Arena.
Leading 58-50 with 6:50 remaining, the Buccaneers watched the Cougars chip away at their lead and come to within one point at 58-57 with 2:28 left. However, from there Smith hit a clutch 3-pointer, later stole a pass that led to another score, and he grabbed two defensive rebounds - including the final one of the game which came when SIUE's Aaron Garriott's game-tying 3-point attempt clanked off the rim with two seconds left in the game.
"Our defense was the difference for us tonight," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "We got stops late that we had to have. Last year, that didn't happen for us. There was a lot of good on that end of the floor for us tonight, but it's early and we still obviously have a lot of work to do."
Smith finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, and was one of three Buccaneers in double figures scoring. Pigram finished with a double-double, posting 12 points and 12 rebounds, while senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) scored a game-high 19 points.
Defensively, the Bucs were in their fullcourt press early and often, ultimately forcing 16 turnovers on nine steals. ETSU's tough man-to-man held SIU Edwardsville to just 36 percent shooting from the floor and 23 percent (6-of-26) from 3-point range. On the boards, ETSU held the advantage 49-36.
In the first half, the game started in a similar fashion to the Bucs first game of the tournament against Temple, with the ETSU offense struggling to find a rhythm and score points. Those struggles led to SIU Edwardsville leading for much of the first 10 minutes, but the Bucs recovered and a 9-0 run was capped by a Pigram layup to make it 31-23 with 5:37 left. From there the Cougars slowly came back and a jumper by guard Mark Yelovich with two seconds left in the half made it 40-35 at the break.
ETSU shot 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc in the first half and out-rebounded the Cougars 24-14 before the break.
For SIUE, Yelovich led the way with 15 points, while guard Aamir McCleary pitched in 12 points and forward Berry Wellington added 10. The Cougars did force 20 ETSU turnovers.
The Bucs will move on to play in the tournament's fifth place game tomorrow at 1 p.m. ETSU will face the winner of Western Michigan and Hofstra. For more on that game and any news on the ETSU men's basketball team, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's basketball link.