Bucs fall short to Virginia Commomwealth

By Bruce R. Wells
STAR Correspondent

   RICHMOND, Va. --- There hasn't been any measurable rain in Richmond for 37 days and counting. Local meteorologist call it a drought. East Tennessee State can certainly relate.
   The Buccaneers continued a winless drought of their own Tuesday night, losing to Virginia Commonwealth University, 79-71 in front of 3,792 at the ALLTEL Pavilion. The loss marked the ninth straight time that ETSU has come up short against the Rams.
   "It was a good basketball game tonight. We played better than at Virginia (on Sunday)," said Bucs, coach Ed DeChellis. "It's a credit to our guys, we fought back to get the lead at the half."
   Despite falling behind by 10 points in the first four minutes of play, ETSU had every reason to believe that this night would have a far different result then the previous eight meetings against VCU. Dimeco Childress gave them plenty of cause to hope, scoring 21 first half points including five consecutive 3 pointers, in a wild first period that gave the Bucs a 37-35 lead at the half.
   "We had a size advantage that we did not take advantage of has much as we should have," said Rams coach Mack McCarthy. "We weren,t only doing things wrong from a team standpoint (in the 1st half), but (ETSU) was doing a lot of really good things. We didn,t do the things we talked about in the scouting report at first, but we did a much better job in the second half."
   Any promise that DeChellis and the Bucs may have gleaned from the first half quickly weathered and turned to dust in the second half.
   The Rams came out strong, controlling the boards and the tempo of the Bucs offense by shutting down Childress. "The things we,ve been working at and emphasizing, guarding the basketball ad rebounding, we struggled with in the second half," said Bucs head coach Ed DeChellis. "We just couldn,t keep them off the boards. We didn,t box out well."
   While the Rams were beating the Bucs under the boards, Antoine Willie made ETSU pay on the other end of the court, scoring 10 second half points and a career-high 22 for the game.
   "Coach told us to attack the boards, told us to get after them and not get picky with our shots," said Willie. "Coach said that this was going to be a test for us. I guess we passed."
   ETSU spent the majority of the second half playing a 1-3-1 zone defense against VCU, trying desperately to keep the Rams off balance and slow them down. But the Bucs couldn't keep the Rams off the glass and were out rebounded 47-32. The Bucs also hit a stonewall at the free throw line, finishing 20 of 30.
   "We thought we,d go for zone and more zones just to slow them down," DeChellis said. "We slowed them down, but every time we got within striking distance, we missed crucial free throws at critical times and we just could not keep them off the glass."
   The Rams paid closer attention to Childress in the second half, limiting him to only eight second half points. He still finished with a game high 29 to lead all scorers. "Nobody guarded him much in the first half," said Rams coach McCarthy. "In the second half I think he just got tired from being open so much early in the game."
   In addition, the Bucs Cliff Decoster managed only one point of offense in 22 minutes on the court, which added to DeChellis, frustration.
   "I'm being about as patient as I can be right now," DeChellis said. "He's pressing and going through some hard times out there. He,s like a hitter in a batting slump. The more you talk about it, the worse it gets. Bottom line, Cliff is not getting the job done."
   The schedule doesn,t give DeChellis and the Bucs a break anytime soon. With games against South Carolina, UNC Asheville, Radford and James Madison on tap, it,s cause for concern.
   "We're really, really young," said DeChellis. "I think we're a little further along then last year at this time. My only fear is we have some tough games coming up. We're going to have to execute better and take every advantage of scoring opportunities. Some guys are going to have to show that they want to play."
   GAME NOTES: Dimeco Childress, 29 points, were the third-most ever scored by one player at the ALLTEL Pavilion...Freshman Tiras Wade (nine points), came into Tuesdays game leading the team in scoring with a 14.5 average...Jerald Fields now has nine blocked shots for the season after swatting away 17 blocks all of last season.