Bucs dismiss Radford, 79-54

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- In the first half of the East Tennessee State-Radford game Saturday afternoon, the Bucs were like a frozen food item that had been heated for 10 seconds. They couldn't warm up.
   But in the second half, the Bucs warmed up just enough for to earn a convincing win.
   East Tennessee State outscored Radford 52-28 in the second half en route to taking a 79-54 win over the Highlanders at Memorial Center.
   "The first half we played very, very poorly offensively," ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis said. "It wasn't so much what they were doing, it was what we were doing. We were just trying to hurry everything, and we weren't playing with any emotion."
   But despite a slow start, DeChellis was very pleased with the second half, a frame that saw ETSU shoot 47.4 percent. The Bucs shot 33.3 percent in the first twenty minutes.
   "We played with more energy on the offensive end." DeChellis said.
   In the first half, ETSU was definitely struggling. But the bad news for the Highlanders was that they were, too.
   Radford made four treys early to go on top 14-12 with 11:19 to go in the first half. From that point on, Radford hit six field goals the rest of the half.
   But ETSU was struggling as well. The Bucs hit only 10 shots from the field in the first half, and only led 27-26 going into the locker room.
   Forward Jerald Fields, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, thought that some strong defense was keeping them ahead of Radford.
   "We really played hard on defense," Fields said. "That's what I think we showed tonight."
   The start of the second half was a sign of things to come for the Highlanders. A technical foul was assessed on the bench before the second half even started.
   Dimeco Childress made both free-throws, and that set the tone.
   The main turning point came around the 13:00 mark of the second half.
   The Bucs were up 40-37 before made baskets by Dimeco Childress and Michael Tolliver made it a 44-37 game.
   The big blow to Radford came on the next score when Childress hit a three-pointer, and was fouled in the act of shooting. Childress completed the four-point play, and the Bucs were now ahead 48-37.
   "He overplayed, went for the steal and didn't get it," Childress said. "I started to drive, and when I pulled up he slapped my arm. I threw it up and it went in. That was a momentum boost."
   That was all the Bucs needed to take control of the game. ETSU was ahead 54-37 with 9:30 to go after a Fields lay-up.
   "This team can get points in bunches," DeChellis said. "But I wanted to get points in bunches off our defense, and we were able to do that again tonight."
   The defense really stepped up late in the contest. The Highlanders had cut ETSU's lead to 58-47, but strong defense sparked a 10-0 run that included a monster slam by Zakee Wadood to give ETSU a 68-47 advantage.
   Wadood, who was starting in place of the injured Cory Seels, scored 18 points on the night.
   "I've been going out there trying to play hard every game," Wadood said. "Hopefully, I can help the team in any way I can."
   Childress led ETSU in scoring with 20 points. Correy Watkins topped Radford with 15.
   DeChellis is right now looking for the Bucs to play a complete game. At times, ETSU looks like a dangerous team. But other times, they go through lulls.
   "The disappointing thing for me is we've only played a half of basketball almost every game we've played this year," DeChellis said. As soon as we figure out that we need to play hard all the time, and put it together for forty minutes, I think we can be OK."
   The Bucs will be at home again next Saturday against James Madison, a contest that will be played in Freedom Hall.
   DeChellis knows that the Bucs will have to play a lot better if they're going to beat the Dukes.
   "We need to start playing better," DeChellis said. "James Madison just beat West Virginia, a Big East team, by 16 points. They must be pretty good. They'll be ready for us."
   ETSU improves to 4-3 with the win, while Radford drops to 4-6.
   *Cory Seels separated his shoulder this week in practice. He will be re-evaluated this week. At the moment, he is expected to miss about two weeks.
   *Even though the Bucs are coming off a championship season, the attendance isn't showing it. The crowd was estimated at 2,190.