FORT MYERS, Fla. ( March 6, 2014) – Faced with playing on the road in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament semifinals against No. 1 seed Florida Gulf Coast, the ETSU men’s basketball team simply wanted a chance late in the game. They had that opportunity.
Unfortunately, despite leading 62-61 with three minutes left, the Bucs missed some critical shots down the stretch and the Eagles managed just enough offense in the final minutes to escape with a 69-64 victory Thursday night inside a sold out Alico Arena.
With the loss, ETSU dropped to 18-15 on the year, while FGCU (22-11) survives and advances to the A-Sun Tournament championship game on their home floor Sunday afternoon on ESPN2. The Eagles will play the winner of the Mercer vs. USC Upstate game scheduled for later in the evening in Macon, Ga.
“I thought we fought our hearts out, but we didn’t make enough plays late in the game,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “We were just right three, but boy, I can’t fault the effort. I’m very proud of the way our guys battled out there.”
While defense had been a challenge for the Bucs throughout the year, they clamped down on the Eagles in this game, holding FGCU to just 37 percent shooting from the floor and only 17 percent from 3-point range. However, while the Bucs defended better, their offensive game let them down, as they shot just 33 percent from the floor, 32 percent from beyond the arc, and 67 percent at the foul line.
Even with those struggles, the Bucs had chances late, as neither team led by more than six at any point of the game. In fact, after giving up six straight points and allowing FGCU to pull back ahead at 67-62, a pair of free throws by junior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) made it 67-64. The Bucs then got a defensive stop and set up a play for junior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.), but his 3-point attempt missed the mark with 23 seconds left on the clock.
After FGCU made one of two free throws, the Bucs again raced to the other end, but a layup by freshman guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) rimmed out with nine seconds left and ended ETSU’s hopes.
For the game, Rembert scored a team-high 18 points, while Riley added 13 points. One major bright spot for the Bucs was the play of freshman guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.), who played 15 minutes in place of injured guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.). Harris finished with a career high 10 points to go with four rebounds and one steal.
FGCU was led by forward Chase Fieler, who finished with a double-double effort on 22 points and 15 rebounds. He was joined in double figures by Bernard Thompson with 14, while Brett Comer and Jamail Jones added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Bucs will now return to Johnson City and wait to see if there is a chance to play anymore basketball this season. The CollegeInsider.com Tournament, as well as the College Basketball Invitational are possibilities, but a decision on ETSU’s participation in the tournament won’t be made until the end of conference tournament play around the country.
For more on ETSU men’s basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.