Boone, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2002) - East Tennessee State's men's basketball team remained perfect in February, winning its eighth straight game by downing Appalachian State, 79-72, in the regular season finale for both squads. The win, coupled with Davidson's upset loss at VMI, gave the Bucs a share of the North Division regular season championship in the Southern Conference with the Wildcats and also clinched the No. 2 seed in next week's Socon Tournament in Charleston, S.C.
Led by Zakee Wadood's (Lonoke, Ark.) 17 first half points, East Tennessee State (18-9, 11-5 SoCon) held the lead for most of the first half. The game was close for most of the first 20 minutes of action, and Appalachian State (10-17, 5-11 SoCon) grabbed a slim two-point lead at 22-20 with 8:58 to play on a free throw from Nate Carson. Wadood tied the game at 22 on the Bucs next possession and then a steal by Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) led to a layup by Dimeco Childress (Columbia, Tenn.) that gave ETSU a lead that it would never relinquish. Over the last three minutes of the half the Bucs outscored the Mountaineers, 14-5, and took a 45-32 lead at the half.
East Tennessee State shot over 58 percent in the first half and was the recipient of 17 Appalachian turnovers, while holding the Mountaineers to just 36 percent shooting.
ETSU kept it going in the second half, extending its lead to 19 points over the first 10 minutes. ASU was not done, however, and mounted a furious comeback in the final minutes of the game.
With the Bucs leading 64-45 with 11 minutes to play, the Mountaineers went on a 13-4 run that cut the lead down to 10 points when Shawn Hall nailed his fifth three-point shot of the afternoon with 4:35 to play.
East Tennessee State got the lead back up to 13 points on a free throw from Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) with a little more than three minutes to play. ASU kept coming on and outscored the Bucs 12-4 after Wade's free throw to cut the ETSU lead down to five points at 75-70 on a trey from Graham Bunn with 32 ticks on the clock. That was as close as the Mountaineers would get as the Buccaneers hit 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch as they hung on for the win.
East Tennessee State shot 50 percent from the field, while the defense came up with 15 steals and five blocks and held the Mountaineers to 37 percent shooting. Fields recorded all of the blocks and set a new single-season blocked shot record with 56, surpassing the previous record of 53 set by Greg Dennis in 1989-90. ASU hurt themselves with turnovers, giving it up 26 times which the Bucs turned into 25 points.
Wadood led all scorers with 23 points and also had a career-high seven steals. Childress added 17 points, while Fields finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Ryan Lawson (Rogersville, Tenn.) set a new career-best with eight assists. Hall finished with 22 points to lead Appalachian State, with Nate Carson adding 15 for the Mountaineers.
As the No. 2 seed in the North, ETSU will play its first game at the SoCon Tournament on Friday, Mar. 1 at approximately 8:30 p.m. against the winner of the No. 3 seed South-No. 6 seed North game that will be played on Thursday. All the games will be played at the North Charleston Coliseum.