JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- The East Tennessee State Buccaneers clinched a first-round bye in the Mountain Dew Southern Conference Tournament and sole possession of first place in the North Division of the conference with a 84-75 victory over the UNC Greensboro Spartans at Memorial Center tonight.
The Buccaneers (15-9, 10-3 SoCon) opened the game on a 17-4 run and held game-high leads of 21 points on two occasions in the first stanza. ETSU forced the Spartans (15-9, 9-4 SoCon)was forced into 11 first half turnovers and the Buccaneers came up with five steals before the break.
The Spartans began the second half on a 11-2 run to cut the Buccaneer lead to 45-37 with 17:31 remaining in the game. UNCG trimmed the ETSU lead to as few as six points at 70-64 with 3:18 remaining. However, key free throws were hit by Dimeco Childress, D.J. McDuffie and Cliff Decoster down the stretch to seal the win.
"I am extrememly proud of our team," Buccaneer head coach Ed DeChellis said. "I thought we came out and played very hard in the first half. The best thing about this team is that a new player steps up every night."
The Buccaneers were led by sophomore guard Ryan Lawson who tallied a team-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 4-of-5 from three-point range. The four three-pointers tie a career-high set in ETSU's last game, against Georgia Southern on Feb. 10. Senior forward Adrian Meeks (16), junior guard Dimeco Childress (16) and junior guard Cliff Decoster (13) also scored in double-digits. Senior forward Renaldo Johnson had a team-high seven rebounds for ETSU.
The Spartans were led by guard Courtney Eldridge who scored a career-high 30 points on 9-of-17 from the field. Forward David Schuck (18) and guard Nathan Jameson (11) also scored in double-digits for UNC Greensboro. Schuck also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Buccaneers return to action against the Davidson Wildcats at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 17. The Spartans host the Georgia Southern Eagles at 2:30 p.m. in Fleming Gym.