JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 25, 2003) - After enjoying a two-game road swing through Texas in which the East Tennessee State men's basketball team defeated Conference USA opponent Houston and battled Bob Knight's Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Buccaneers opened their home schedule Tuesday night by easily dispatching NCAA Division II Mars Hill 100-57 at Memorial Center.
Four Bucs eclipsed double figures in scoring to lead the way, with senior Jerald Fields (Gainesville, Fla.) posting a season-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor. Along with Fields, sophomore Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) added 12 points, while the freshman duo of A.J. Jackson (Monessen, Penn.) and Aaron Scott (Houma, La.) netted 16 and 11 points, respectively.
ETSU wasted little time taking the fight to the Lions, scoring the first 13 points of the game and opening the contest with an offensive flurry that left Mars Hill facing a 20-point deficit at 25-5 with 12:09 left in the first half. The Bucs did not let up from there, building their lead to 59-30 by halftime.
"We were glad to have an opportunity to get some guys playing time," said ETSU first-year head coach Murry Bartow. "The trip back from Texas was long and our team needs some rest before the Wilmington game."
Indeed, the Bucs used this contest with their nearby North Carolina neighbor as a tune up for Saturday's 4 p.m. game with UNC Wilmington, a team that has made back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament over the last two years. The Bucs traveled to Wilmington last season and suffered a 78-59 loss.
But on this night, every Buc player - with the exception of sophomore guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.), who missed the game with an ankle injury but is listed as probable for Saturday's game - saw action in the contest and contributed. While the trio of Fields, Jackson and Scott stood out, senior forward Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) finished the evening with nine points and 10 rebounds, while freshman guard Travis Strong (Memphis, Tenn.) and junior guard Sam Oatman (Neenah, Wisc.) each dished out a team-high four assists and scored seven points.
The Bucs kept the pressure on Mars Hill in the second half, outscoring the Lions 41-27. In fact, ETSU eclipsed the 100-point mark with 23 seconds left when Jackson scored his final two points of the night.
Mars Hill (0-3) was led by guards Ronald Lewis and Chris Conn, both of whom scored 13 points. Guard Richie Covington also added 10 rebounds.
ETSU, which improves to 2-1, will return to action on Saturday when they host UNC Wilmington at Memorial Center. Tip is scheduled for 4 p.m.