Bucs hold off Cougars

By Allen LaMountain

   JOHNSON CITY -- With their defensive efforts getting less than stellar reviews, the East Tennessee State Buccaneers stepped it up a notch on Monday night at Memorial Center.
   Holding the College of Charleston to a paltry seven-of-27 shooting (25.9 percent) in the first half, the Bucs built a commanding 37-20 halftime advantage enroute to a 65-61 win.
   "We wanted to come out and emphasize defense," said Bucs forward Zakee Wadood. "We got our hands up, blocked some shots - and the refs let both teams play - and played 40-minutes of defense."
   ETSU improved to 9-6 (3-1 SoCon) and the Cougars saw their overall mark fall to 11-5 (1-2 SoCon).
   "This game was the classic tale of two halves," said College of Charleston head coach Tom Herrion. "We missed a bunch of shots early on, and some easy shots that we should have converted. The second half we guarded really, really well and I was proud of their effort."
   Post Jerald Fields, who has been nursing a bad right knee this season, brought some early fire to the floor as ETSU used two eight-point runs to open a 19-6 lead in the opening minutes.
   Fields opened by scoring seven of the first nine Bucs points, and finished with nine points while being a force on the defensive end of the court.
   "Coach challenged me to come out hard early and take it to the hole," said Fields. "I think this was a big win, and we made a statement in the conference. We practiced nothing but defense the last few days."
   After a trey by sophomore James Anthony, the Bucs held a 25-9 advantage at the 8:14 mark of the first half, and sent the large home crowd into a frenzy.
   "The fans really get us fired up," said Bucs forward Tiras Wade, who played despite a painful, dislocated left middle finger. "We appreciate the fans here so much and we try not to let them down, we want to be great all the time. Tonight was what we have been striving for all year, and this was the least amount of points we have given up."
   Wade, who tallied a game-high 14 points, knocked down the first two shots of the second half as ETSU extended to a 41-20 lead before Rudy Rothseiden's deuce and Tony Mitchell's trey cut the Bucs lead to 41-25.
   Freshman point guard Tim Smith answered for ETSU with a pair from the charity stripe and Smith also banged home a trey from the corner as the Bucs opened a 48-25 advantage.
   Charleston continued to whittle away at the ETSU lead until a 25-12 run brought the Cougars to within 10 points at 60-50 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
   "We had the big lead and may have gotten a bit lax," said Wadood. "We had to decide right then to buckle down on defense and not let this one slip away."
   Wadood did his part by rejecting a shot by Stanley Jackson that could have made it a one possession game as the Cougars closed to within 60-56.
   "Charleston is a very good basketball team," said Bucs head coach Ed DeChellis. "I think our guys did a good job standing up against runs. The guys were focused and we had talked about playing with energy and intensity."