Bucs outlast USC Upstate in season finale overtime thriller, 86-80

Saturday, March 01, 2008


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (March 1, 2008) - On the same day he eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his career, senior Travis Strong (Memphis) hit a running lay up to force overtime, and junior guard Jocolby Davis (Meridian, Miss.) went on to score seven critical points in the extra period to lift the ETSU men's basketball team to a 86-80 win over USC Upstate in the regular season finale for both teams Saturday afternoon at the G.B. Hodge Center.


Davis' efforts came when the Buccaneers needed it most , as junior guard Courtney Pigram (Memphis) fouled out in the final minutes of regulation after scoring 18 of his team-high 22 points in the second half to rally the Bucs from a nine-point halftime deficit. Along with Davis, junior forward Kenyona Swader (Smyrna) added five of his 15 points in the overtime period to pace the Bucs' offensive effort.

With the win, ETSU improves to 18-12 overall, 11-5 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, as the Bucs must now wait for the remainder of A-Sun Saturday schedule to learn who they will play in the first round of the league championships Thursday in Nashville. Meanwhile, USC Upstate ends its year at 7-23, 5-11.


"I can't say enough about the play we got from Jocolby, Kenyona and Tommy (Hubbard)," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "It wasn't pretty, but that's our third straight and we've at least built some momentum going into the postseason."


The first half was all Upstate, as the Spartans shot 44 percent from 3-point range and took advantage of ETSU's 14 turnovers to lead by as many as 18 points 43-25 with 2:06 left before the intermission. At that point, the Bucs did manage a small rally, getting four points off the bench from Tommy Hubbard (Boston) and scoring the final nine points of the half to trail 43-34 at the break.


Also in the first half, Strong - who entered the game four points shy of 1,000 for his career - hit a 3-pointer in the early going and later eclipsed that special mark with a 3-pointer from the left wing at the 9:10 mark of the first half. Strong finished with 16 points on the night, including the overtime-forcing lay up with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.


In the second half, ETSU slowly chipped away at the Upstate lead, ultimately taking the advantage at the 9:47 mark 54-53 on a jumper by Swader. In overtime, Swader scored the first three points, followed by five straight from Davis to make it a seven-point game at 79-72. Upstate senior guard Luke Payne hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes to make it 81-78, but the Bucs held on for the win.


While Pigram scored a team-high 22 points, he was joined in double figures by Strong with 16, Swader with 15 and Davis with 11. Senior forward Andrew Reed (Port Richey, Fla.) finished with a game-high 13 rebounds. The Bucs shot 51 percent for the game, and grabbed 12 steals on the night.


For Upstate, Payne scored a game-high 24, while Jeremy Byrd netted 13 and Bobby Davis added 12. The Spartans forced 24 ETSU turnovers, but were out-rebounded 43-36.


ETSU will return to action Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. The championship schedule and the Bucs' exact game time will be released Sunday. For updates on ETSU men's basketball, visit ETSUBucs.com.

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