HOLOLULU, Hawaii (Dec. 22, 2007) -The ETSU men's basketball team came back from a 15-point second half deficit, but were outscored by 14-12 in overtime and lost a heartbreaker, 82-80, to Louisiana Lafayette in the third-place game of the 44th annual Rainbow Classic Saturday night from the Stan Sheriff Center.
Despite the loss junior Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) tallied his first career double-double, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing career-best 10 rebounds. Courtney Pigram (Memphis) and Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) also notched double figures in scoring. Pigram added 17 and Reed netted 14. Louisiana Lafayette finished with four in double figures, with Chris Gradnigo ending with a team-high 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
In a game which saw 14 lead changes and eight ties, the Ragin' Cajuns won the closely fought battle. The Bucs held a 72-69 lead with 3:19 left in the extra frame, but Lafayette fought back and Randell Daigle's three-pointer with 19 seconds broke ETSU's heart, giving Lafayette an 81-77 lead and eventually the victory.
The Ragin' Cajuns began the game hitting three treys and took an 11-8 lead into the first media timeout with 15:25 on the clock. It was the Pigram and Reed show early as they combined to score the Bucs' first eight points, posting four apiece. However, that is all Pigram would score for the half as he picked up two fouls in the first six minutes, and his third at the 5:51 mark. Lafayette upped its lead to five, 17-12, but Tiggs decided to take over as he scored nine of the next 13 points for the Bucs. Tiggs' three with a little less than nine minutes left gave the Buccaneers their second lead of the half at 23-22. Then, the hot three-point shooting lifted the Ragin' Cajuns to a 31-25 advantage with seven minutes left before the break. Lafayette hit seven of its first 10 three's as Gradnigo accounted for four of them.
The first 12 minutes of the contest were also tightly contested as there were three ties and four lead changes during the stretch. However, with the game tied at 25, Lafayette scored 15 unanswered points and led 40-25 at the 5:20 mark. ETSU would score nine of the final 13 points of the half to cut the Ragin' Cajuns' advantage to 10, 44-34.
For the half ETSU shot 44.8 percent (13-29) from the floor, while Lafayette hit 50 percent (13-26) of its field goals. Once again it was the three-point shooting that would hurt the Bucs, as the Ragin' Cajuns nailed nine from beyond the arc, compared to only two by ETSU. The Bucs did dominate in the paint, outscoring Lafayette, 22-4, and won the rebounding side, 16-13. Tiggs led ETSU with 12 points, and Bureau and Gradnigo combined to score 29 of Louisiana Lafayette's 44 points.
The Ragin' Cajuns came out firing to begin the final 20 minutes as they scored five points in a minute and six seconds to push their lead to 15, 49-34. The strong start forced head coach Murry Bartow to call a timeout and regroup his troops. Whatever coach said worked, because the Bucs went on a 24-0 run which got the Buccaneer faithful roaring inside the arena. Defensive pressure and red-hot three-point shooting helped guide the run as ETSU forced five turnovers and nailed four treys during the blitzkrieg. From there, Lafayette ended a scoring drought that lasted over eight minutes and the Ragin' Cajuns went on a run of their own to regain the lead. Daigle's three-pointer put the ULL back up, 63-60, with 5:46 left in regulation. However, the Bucs regained the lead (64-63) on back-to-back lay-ups by Tiggs with just under five minutes remaining. The rest of the contest became a nail biter as neither team could open a large lead. Both teams had a chance to pull it off in regulation, but Reed's missed lay-up with less than 20 seconds left gave the Ragin' Cajuns the ball; though a desperation shot by Lafayette missed everything which eventually sent the game to overtime.
The Bucs dropped two of three in the tournament, matching the same mark ETSU posted the first time they played in the tournament (back in 2003). That season ETSU came back to the mainland and rattled off 16 straight wins en route to a SoCon title and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003-04. ETSU now hopes history repeats itself after falling to 5-7; while the Ragin Cajuns move to 4-7.
ETSU shot 42.6 percent (29-68) for the game, while Lafayette finished at 48.1 percent (26.-54). The Bucs did out-rebound the opposition, 41-31, and scored 40 points in the paint to only 14 by ULL. The other Buccaneer highlight came at the free throw line, where they finished 15-of-17 (88.2 percent).
The Bucs will now have a week off before hosting Appalachian State to close out the 2007 portion of its schedule. Tip against the Mountaineers will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30 inside Memorial Center.