ETSU rallies for dramatic 63-61 win over Gardner-Webb
Freshman Mike Smith blocked Gardner-Webb's game-winning attempt late to help seal the victory.
Freshman Mike Smith blocked Gardner-Webb's game-winning attempt late to help seal the victory.

Friday, February 02, 2007

                JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 2, 2007) - Down 59-50 with 4:48 left on the game clock, the ETSU men's basketball team found a way to regroup, outscoring Gardner-Webb 13-2 the rest of the way to escape with a 63-61 win in Atlantic Sun Conference action Friday evening at Memorial Center.


            The Bucs' (17-7 overall, 11-1 A-Sun) comeback got started with back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) and freshman guard Dequan Twilley (Shelbyville), cutting the lead to 59-56 with 3:05 left and brought the crowd of 5,163 to its feet. After a pair of free throws by the Runnin' Bulldogs made it 61-56, ETSU got two more baskets from Twilley, a lay up from senior Eryk Thomas (Fremont, Calif.), and a free throw from freshman guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.) to make it 63-61. Smith's foul shot came after he blocked the potential game-winning attempt of Gardner-Webb's Thomas Sanders and grabbed the loose ball.


            "Obviously, it was a very tough game," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team won its ninth straight contest. "They controlled the pace of the game and we couldn't really get going. But again, I'm really proud of our guys. To be down nine with four minutes to play, it says something again about our team. Courtney and Dequan made a couple big threes, and Mike defensively was great in that iso(lation) play against Sanders. It was a good win and keeps our streak alive. But what this is telling me is there's something special here with this team."


            The Bucs certainly got the Runnin' Bulldogs' best shot, as Gardner-Webb hit on 50 percent from the field and a crisp 56 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. While the Bucs shot 54 percent from the field themselves, they hit just seven 3-pointers compared to 10 for G-W.


            Both teams shot the basketball well in the first half, with ETSU posting a 51.7 percent clip (15-of-29), while Gardner-Webb hit on 50 percent (11-of-22) of its shots. The Bucs led 11-5 at the first media timeout with just over 15 minutes remaining in the half, and both teams traded baskets from there with ETSU holding a 35-30 advantage at the break. While ETSU scored a majority of its points on the inside, the Bulldogs stayed in it primarily with shots from outside, hitting on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.


            In the second half, G-W battled back methodically to take the lead for the first time at 43-40 thanks to a 3-pointer from Ricky McPhee with 14:39 left. The Bulldogs would hold that lead the rest of the way until Thomas' lay up with 1:10 remaining made it 62-61. ETSU proceeded to stop G-W's next possession when a shot by Chris Gash missed and Thomas rebounded. However, Thomas promptly turned the ball over giving Sanders a chance at the win, but Smith was there for the block and was fouled. After hitting one of two free throws, Takayo Siddle's 3-point attempt from the left wing missed and the Bucs escaped with the victory.


            For ETSU, Smith led the way with 14 points, while junior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) and Pigram pitched in 12 apiece. Thomas rounded out the double figure scoring with 10. For Gardner-Webb, Sanders scored a game-high 16, while Gash finished with 11.


            ETSU will return to action Monday evening at 7 p.m., hosting Campbell inside Memorial Center.

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