ETSU muscles past App State

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- Madonna wasn't on hand at Memorial Center Wednesday night to sing her smash hit "Get into the Groove," but she probably should have been. It was hard for ETSU or Appalachian State to find a groove in this battle of Southern Conference rivals.
   The Bucs managed to get things going in the second half to defeat the Mountaineers 75-66.
   It was a very physical contest, as 55 free throws were shot between the two teams.
   The physical game didn't surprise Appalachian State head coach Houston Fancher.
   "We knew coming in that East Tennessee State is a physical team," Fancher said. "They always push and shove, and you've got to respond to that. They make you play that way.
   "I don't know if we responded that well tonight. I thought in the first half we really did. We outrebounded them in the first half, but in the second half they tied the rebounds up. They were more aggressive on the boards than we were down the stretch, and ended up tying us in the rebound category, which is a big category for us."
   ETSU led throughout the second half, even pulling ahead by as much as 52-39 with 10:48 to go in the game on a three-pointer from Zakee Wadood.
   But the Mountaineers rallied back, and just five minutes later, the Bucs were only ahead 60-58.
   ETSU would not be denied in this one. Tough defense, and clutch shooting propelled the Bucs on an 8-0 run to stretch their lead out to 68-58.
   The exclamation point may have come in the final minute when Ryan Lawson stole the basketball away from Graham Bunn, and dished it off to Dimeco Childress for a monster slam. The Buccaneer lead was 70-59 at that point, and ETSU never looked backed.
   During the stretch run, ETSU held the boys from the North Carolina high country scoreless for four minutes. ETSU head basketball coach Ed DeChellis thought his players really stepped up their defense in the final few minutes.
   "We were trying to guard a little bit better," DeChellis said. "We were trying to play defense like we always have, but with this young team it's been a real challenge for me to get them to continue to play and make second or third defensive plays. I thought we did a little bit of that tonight. We got a hand on some balls."
   A player that stepped up late in the basketball game was Wadood. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half.
   DeChellis admitted Wadood didn't start out that great, but was a factor throughout.
   "He's so bouncy and he plays that way," DeChellis said. "Even though he didn't make some shots early he was still getting offensive rebounds, and still causing some havoc."
   Wadood, who finished with 11 boards, was determined to rebound from the slow start.
   "My teammates stuck with me and everything," Wadood said. "They kept encouraging me to stay in the game and everything. I told them in the second half that I would give my all, and try to do my best for them."
   Another ETSU player that deserves recognition is Childress. He only had nine points, but came back into the game after taking a hard fall late in the first half.
   Childress was not going to let his teammates down.
   "I fell and banged my wrist a little bit," Childress said. "I wasn't going to sit out this game. I just wanted to help my team the best I could playing "D" or rebounding or whatever I had to do to help us get this win.
   The Bucs improve to 8-4 overall, and 1-0 in the Southern Conference going into a Saturday road game at The Citadel.
   The struggling Mountaineers fall to 4-7 overall, and 0-1 in conference play, but can take a lot from this game.
   Appalachian started out the game on an 8-1 run, and led the majority of the first half.
   "We got off to a bad start at UNC-Asheville Sunday, so we were really focusing on a good start," Fancher said. "We wanted to get focused on having a good start and maintaining that. I don't think we got complacent at 8-1, I just think we had a couple of turnovers. We had a couple of missed shots that got us stuck at 8, then we got stuck at 13 for a couple minutes. We had some scoring droughts that we've got to work to avoid.
   As for the Buccaneers, DeChellis was very happy to see his team rebound from the slow start.
   "I was proud of the guys for the way we bounced back, and made some plays when we had to," DeChellis said. In the second half I thought we had some guys make some shots. We executed stuff a little better, even though it maybe didn't seem that way."
   Lawson and Jerald Fields also had fine games for the Bucs. Fields netted 15, while Lawson poured in 11.
   Donald Payne topped Appalachian with 13.
   The Buccaneers are still without the services of senior point guard Cliff Decoster. He is still recovering from an illness, but may be back with the team this weekend.