Bucs sink Keydets, 101-90

By Matt Hill

   If basketball games were beauty pageant contestants, the ETSU-VMI contest Saturday afternoon wouldn't have placed.
   Fifty-six fouls and 72 free-throws were shot in the Buccaneers' 101-90 win over the Keydets at Memorial Center.
   The Bucs had complete control of this contest at one time, but the Keydets slowly started creeping their way back into it.
   ETSU led 64-41 with 16:01 left to go in the game, but it didn't stay that way.
   ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis joked about that lead slipping away.
   "We didn't want anybody leaving the game early," DeChellis said. "The popcorn sales would go down and all that stuff.
   Then DeChellis got serious and started talking about how the lead that was once 23 points dwindled down to five late in the contest.
   "VMI is a basketball team that when you're down 20, it's easier to play that way," DeChellis said. "Every shot is a good shot. But we didn't do what we needed to do. We couldn't get the ball inside, and we weren't aggressive with the basketball.
   "We kind of let it get away from us for a few minutes, but I'm very proud of our kids. We're a young team, and they came back and made the plays they had to make to win the game."
   The Buccaneers ability to get to the foul line may have been the difference. ETSU went 29-of-44 from the charity stripe, compared to VMI's 19-of-28 clip from the free-throw area.
   Gary Wall, Daniel Stryffler and William Dunlap were calling just about everything in this one. By the 9:24 mark of the second half, both teams were in the double bonus.
   VMI's Jason Conley came in as the nation's leading scorer with a 28 points per game average. Conley did his damage, as he netted 29, but it was Radee Skipworth that was key in VMI's second half comeback.
   Skipworth scored 10 straight Keydet points to cut ETSU's lead down to 73-59 with 11:40 to go. Skipworth finished with 25.
   "Skipworth's got the ability to hurt people," VMI head coach Bart Bellairs said. "Tonight he did a great, great job. We posted him up and he got good baskets."
   VMI's run continued after Skipworth's dominance, as the Keydets went on an 11-0 run in a span of 3:30 minutes to cut ETSU's lead down to 76-71 with 7:02 remaining.
   The Bucs were still only up by a 90-84 count with 1:45 left, but then stepped up their game.
   ETSU made 11 free-throws down the stretch to ice the contest.
   "I thought we made plays when we had to," DeChellis said. "They made free-throws when they had to, we got a big offensive rebound when we had to. They did what they had to do when they had to do it."
   Rebounding was huge for ETSU in this contest. The Bucs out-rebounded the Keydets 49-31, and 28-10 on the offensive side.
   "They really hurt us on the offensive boards," Bellairs said. "They do a good job. We would stop them, and then they would get a putback. That's something we've really got to work on. But if we stay positive good things are going to happen."
   It was a balanced scoring attack for ETSU, as five players hit double figures.
   Dimeco Childress led the way with 22, Zakee Wadood scored 18, and Jerald Fields, Tiras Wade and Ryan Lawson all poured in 13 for the Bucs.
   Lawson was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.
   The Bucs are now 9-6 overall, and 2-2 in Southern Conference play. This breaks a two-game conference losing streak for ETSU.
   "It feels good to get back on track," Childress said. "Hopefully this will get us the momentum for the big games coming up on the road."
   Those games are at defending Southern Conference Tournament champion UNC-Greensboro Monday, and at Davidson next Saturday.
   The Spartans are up first, and Fields knows it's going to be a tough battle.
   "We know they're going to play us real hard," Fields said.
   Said Childress: "It's going to be a big game for us. It's not going to be easy, we know that. It's a big game for us confidence wise."
   *It was announced this week that center Cory Seels and point guard Cliff Decoster will be out for the year. Seels is out with a separated shoulder, while Decoster is finished due to a medical condition.
   *ETSU has now won 17 straight games at home, which is one of the longest streaks in the nation.