Nuckles tips in Buc win

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The East Tennessee State basketball team escaped with a last-second tip-in to beat UNC Greensboro in overtime by a final of 96-94 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
   "We were real fortunate to win this one, but the most important thing was we never quit when we got down," said East Tennessee State coach Ed DeChellis.
   All eyes were on this game, as ESPN2 was holding national televised coverage with 5,479 fans in attendance.
   "It's great to win a game like this, and we had several players come in off the bench to make big plays for us," said DeChellis.
   A shot from Tiras Wade with just a few seconds remaining bounced off the rim, which allowed freshman Brad Nuckles to make the tip and get the Bucs' first conference win on the season.
   The Bucs jumped out to an early 7-2 lead when Jerald field made a pass to Wade behind the arch for the three-point goal.
   Greensboro came back to grab their first lead of the contest at 13-11 with 12:42 left in the first-half, when James Maye drove inside the paint for the deuce.
   The Spartans went on a three minute drought with the half winding down, which enabled ETSU to build a 13-point advantage.
   A free-throw from Zakee Wadood made it 30-17 in favor of the Bucs with 6:29 left in the half.
   "We played with a lot of adrenaline in the first ten minutes and then it left us, but we were able to create some points off the defense, and I think that's what won us the game," said Wadood.
   Wadood scored 15 points on the evening and led the Bucs in rebounding with 11 boards.
   "We had several young players come in and play good for us, and hopefully we can continue to play hard and keep our confidence," said Wadood.
   East Tennessee State held its advantage until the two-minute mark, when the Spartans caught fire from the outside.
   A couple of three-point goals from Dan Hargrove and Maye brought Greensboro back to within five with under a minute left.
   With a few ticks left on the clock, Maye inbounded a pass to Sea McCarthy, and received it back for the three-point bucket at the buzzer.
   Maye led the Spartans in scoring at the break with 16 of his 29 points on the evening, while Tim Smith poured in 11 for the Bucs at the half.
   The Spartans had clawed their way back into the contest, where they trailed by only two points heading into the second-half.
   It was like a great heavyweight fight throughout the second half, as the game became tied on 15 different occasions with 13 lead changes.
   Neither team was able to open up more than a four-point advantage as Ryan Lawson hit two free throws with 7:36 left in the contest, giving the Bucs a 67-63 advantage.
   Jay Joseph came up big for Greensboro in the final minutes by knocking down three three-point goals.
   It looked as if the Bucs had ran out of luck when they fell behind 78-74 after two free throws came from Joseph.
   Greensboro was 22-22 from the free-throw line at that point, and the Bucs were put in a position where they had to foul.
   The Spartans fell apart in their last six attempts as they were only able to hit just two shots, giving the Bucs an opportunity to rally with 14 second left.
   "We did a great job from the line today, but the free throws we missed at the end really hurt us," said UNC Greensboro coach Fran McCaffrey.
   A three-point shot by Wade off a pass from Fields cut the Spartan lead to one with 8.3 seconds left.
   "In high school it seemed like I always lost the games that were close like this one was, and I said to myself 'we've got to win this,'" said Wade.
   Wade finished with a game-high 32 points, with 20 of them coming in the second-half.
   Joseph was fouled on the inbounds by Fields to put him at the free-throw line, where he hit the first one but missed on his second attempt.
   "We've lost this sort of ball games like this all season long, and we're going to have to figure out how to finish it at the end," said McCaffrey.
   Wade grabbed the rebound and drove the ball all the way down the floor to find Wadood underneath for the basket with two seconds left sending the game into overtime.
   "Everyone was expecting me to shoot the ball, but I saw Wadood hiding out underneath and made the pass," said Wade.
   The Bucs acquired a slim advantage, when Fields scored the first five points and knocked down a three-point shot.
   Maye answered for the Spartans by hitting a three, as Fields left the game due to an injury to his ankle.
   Knuckles came into replace the injured Fields, and would make his presence felt before the game was over.
   Freshman Ben Rhoda helped the Bucs regain the advantage, when he made a drive inside for the score off a Wadood screen.
   "It seems like I can make the drive against the big boys inside. I try to play with a lot of intensity and energy," said Rhoda.
   Rhoda came off the bench to finish with 15 points, along with grabbing three offensive boards.
   "I've just been trying to get back on track and help my team as much as possible," said Rhoda.
   East Tennessee State clanged to a three-point lead with over a minute left, when Nuckles grabbed the offensive board and made the putback.
   "I feel like we're coming together as a team, and one of our goals is to not lose a home game this season," said Nuckles.
   Greensboro came back receiving a three-point shot from Joseph with 26 seconds left, tying the game at 94-94.
   The Bucs played for one last shot, where they went to their money man Wade, but an attempt from outside the free-throw line was just short.
   But right before the clock expired, Nuckles made a tip with the ball bouncing in at the buzzer to give the Bucs an electrifying win.
   "In our last possession I didn't get blocked out, and I saw I had a good chance of making the tip," said Nuckles.