Wake Forest escapes Buccaneers, 76-73

By Seth Bartee
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   TAMPA, Fla. -  The East Tennessee State Buccaneers arrived in Tampa this week amidst a war in Iraq and terror threat within the home front. Instead of the usual hoopla over March Madness the eyes and ears of the nation were focused on events unwrapping in the Middle East.
   The Buccaneers have been quietly preparing for a showdown with Wake Forest on Friday. The show must go on, the fans are in full force arriving for the games, ready or not the madness is here.
   Before the game between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Bucs, predictions ran from a blowout to a close game. Former ETSU coach now Citadel Athletic director, Les Robinson said he believed it would be a close game.
   Since the Demon Deacons were starting four freshmen, ETSU as far as experience had an equal edge. Youth won the night as Wake Forest won in scrappy fashion over the Bucs in a 76-73 nail biter.
   The first half started out sloppy as walks, botched passes and nervousness plagued both teams. Zakee Wadood drew a foul early when he missed both free throws while trying to acclimate to the Demon Deacon band heckling.
   ETSU drew back late in the first half with their advantage in the turnover area with 10 points. As the first half closed nothing could stop Wake Forest Center, Eric Williams who scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half.
   ETSU did stop the Demon Deacons top three scorers but left others such as Taron Downey open to score 12 points in the second half. Zakee Wadood said, "that was the beauty of the tournament" when referring to secondary players stepping up.
   The 17,024 were in for a great second half as ETSU tied the score with the Deacons three times. Buc freshman, Brad Nuckles said, "he felt great and was comfortable" in his debut in the big dance. When Nuckles was asked if he loved the big games his reply was a confident, yes.
   ETSU guard Tim Smith and junior Zakee Wadood combined for 42 of ETSU's 73 points. It was tit for tat in the second half as Wake Forest would score and then ETSU would answer with a Smith three or a Wadood free throw.
   First half trends remained the same as Wake Forest dominated in rebounding and second chance points and the Bucs lead in points of turnovers along with fast break points.
   ETSU was down 72-64 with 2:27 left in the game but Tim Smith hit a three pointer with 1:34 left in the game. The freshman guard struck again with 28 seconds to go with another three to even the game 72-72.
   As the flow had gone all night the Bucs could not hold on to gain the lead. They fouled Josh Howard who hit both free throws to put Wake ahead by two. The Bucs had a chance to win but Tim Smith missed a three pointer with 3 seconds left in the game.
   Coach Ed DeChellis said that he gave Smith the option of winning the game with one shot. "They played with tremendous heart and passion," replied DeChellis on the effort of his team.
   The Bucs shot 83 % from above the arc in the second half and averaged 50% for the game. ETSU's top scorer was Tim Smith with 22 points, while he played all 40 minutes on the floor.
   Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said it was "bittersweet to play ETSU" since coach De Chellis was a friend of his. He even called the Buc's coach after their win in the Southern Conference. When it came to choosing DeChellis over his team, he said, "I like Ed but I like my kids more."
   The only starter the Bucs will lose is guard Ryan Lawson who said he thought the team played great despite the loss.
   The Bucs dance at the ball ended but her Cinderella dreams are from over.