Bucs bully UNCG

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Tim Smith may be 5-9, but he played like a 6-8 post.
   Collecting a double-double along with fellow sophomore Brad Nuckles, Smith helped the East Tennessee State Buccaneers withstand another Southern Conference foe Monday night.
   The Bucs fought through a slow first half offensively and a second-half rally from UNC-Greensboro with a big string of treys to pull out an 86-65 victory at the Memorial Center.
   "I thought we did a lot of good things," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team is still perfect in the conference at 10-0. "The things that really jump out of me are the 20 rebound differential. It was our best offensive rebounding game of the year."
   The Bucs outrebounded Greensboro 55-35 and collected 25 offensive rebounds on the night. It was a big key to their big victory.
   "They are a team that can't shoot the ball well, but they score off of rebounding and transition," said Spartan coach Fran McCaffery. "Their second-shot opportunities demoralize other teams.
   "We have been inconsistent, to say the least, and I attribute that to playing a very good team on the road."
   Again the Bucs (18-4, 10-0) had five guys reach double digits, led by a game-high 22 points from Zakee Wadood.
   Smith had 14 points and 10 boards with no turnovers, while Nuckles added 12 points with his 13 boards. Add in James Anthony and Ben Rhoda's 15 and 10-point nights, and you have a pretty good outing.
   Greensboro had only one player reach double digits on the night in Jay Joseph, who tallied 21. Three other Spartans grabbed eight.
   It was a low-scoring first half with the Bucs taking a 35-21 edge. East Tennessee took its first lead with a Jerald Fields lay-in at the 16:43 mark and the Spartans never retained that advantage.
   Greensboro got as close as 11 in the second half after Joseph and Ray Bristow lit up some treys.
   Anthony responded with three treys while Smith added a pair to help the home squad push its lead to as much as 24 down the stretch.
   "A lot of us kind of struggled in the beginning," said James Anthony. "Maybe we were hustling too hard. After a while the shots fall and things come to."
   Solid Buccaneer defense worked against the Spartans' favor and they couldn't make another run. The Bucs took advantage of inside boards and buckets and moved the ball in transition.
   "That's our game. We've got a lot of athletes on the team that like to get up and down," said Zakee Wadood. "Timmy's the leader of that. He has the ball 95 percent of the time. He's pushing and trying to get to the rim to score. Whenever we run with it, it's hard to stop us. When we get that kind of game up and down, that's the way we like it."
   Bristow, Ronnie Burrell and Josh Gross added the eight apiece for Greensboro.
   Up next for the Bucs is another key crucial conference battle against the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who came close to putting the unit away in Boone, North Carolina.
   "It's going to be very intense and very physical," Wadood said. "We're going to have to play our game. We're going to need an up-tempo game instead of a halfcourt game like they had in Boone."
   "They played us real tough and they're going to come in at us," Anthony added. "We're going to have to take some blows and come out with a win."
   One thing the game is sure to bring is a big crowd, which will surely bring a better atmosphere to the Dome.
   "It's going to be a big, big, big game," said Tim Smith. "We're going to have to come out and play hard. We ain't going to back down. I know with our past history, we have to look forward to the game."
   Travis Strong added six for the Bucs off a pair of treys, while Michael Tolliver hit a late three-ball. Jerald Fields, held up with foul trouble for most of the night, only finished with four.
   BUCS TO FACE FRESNO IN BRACKET BUSTERS
   The Bucs are going out west, again.
   ESPN announced Monday that ETSU drew a solid Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Fresno State unit for its second annual Bracket Busters series on Saturday, Feb. 21.
   The Bulldogs, who have the 82nd best RPI in the country with a 10-8 record including wins against the Pac-10's Washington State and Hawaii, will in return play at the Mini Dome next season due to the guaranteed home-and-home contract.
   "It'll be a great challenge for our team," Bartow said after Monday night's game. "Fresno State's a nationally known program in a very good league."
   The game is not part of the exclusive ESPN or ESPN2 television package, but will be featured on ESPN's Full Court satellite plan and will be picked up locally.
   "It will be some type of TV, which we like," the coach added. "We also like the fact that we get them back here next year. A big part of what we're trying to do, we're trying to improve the quality of our home schedule."
   That game will carry a 3 p.m. tipoff.