Vandy fends off stubborn Buccaneers

By Matt Hill

   NASHVILLE -- The East Tennessee State Buccaneers were like the New Kids on the Block Saturday. For most of the game, they were "Hanging Tough."
   The Bucs gave the Vanderbilt Commodores all they wanted before falling to the Southeastern Conference school 86-77 at Memorial Gym.
   "I'm really proud of our team," ETSU head coach Ed DeChellis said after the game on WJCW-AM.
   The Bucs were very impressive after a slow start. With 3:33 to go in the first half, the Bucs were behind 36-20.
   After that point, the Bucs outscored Vanderbilt by seven points the rest of the way.
   The Bucs started their comeback late in the first half. It looked like the Commodores were going to go into the locker room up 43-33, but Tiras Wade threw up a one-handed 60-footer at the buzzer that went in to cut the Commodore lead down to 43-36.
   Wade scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half.
   The Bucs used the momentum they gained at the break to propel them in the second half. ETSU outscored Vanderbilt 11-3 coming out of the gate to take a 47-46 lead with 15:32 left in the game.
   "I thought in the second half we played with a lot more energy and enthusiasm, and got after them," DeChellis said.
   But ETSU's lead was short lived. The Bucs went cold, and Vanderbilt outscored the boys from Johnson City 10-0 right after ETSU took the lead.
   Vanderbilt was ahead 56-47 at the 11-minute mark, and the Commodores never trailed again.
   The Bucs actually had a chance to go ahead four when Jerald Fields' three-point attempt went in-and-out. DeChellis thought if that shot had gone in, it might have been difficult for the Commodores.
   "I can still see it going in and out," DeChellis said. "If that goes, now I think it's a whole different set of circumstances."
   The Bucs continued to fight following Vanderbilt's back-breaking run. ETSU cut Vanderbilt's advantage to 56-54 with nine minutes to go on a bucket by Zakee Wadood, but the Bucs would never get any closer after that.
   Vanderbilt was ahead 72-61 with 4:45 left, and the Commodores never looked back.
   ETSU did its job on the boards in Saturday's contest. The Bucs outrebounded the Commodores 41-35.
   "I thought Zakee (Wadood) and Jerald (Fields) really fought," DeChellis said. "These kids fought and did some good things."
   The Bucs were plagued with foul trouble throughout the game. Fields and Ryan Lawson saw their minutes reduced because of it, while Wade and Wadood fouled out late.
   Wade led the Bucs in scoring. Fields and Wadood scored 13 and 12, respectively.
   Freshman Michael Tolliver scored 11 points from the point guard spot. He has been starting in place of Cliff Decoster, who is out with a medical condition.
   Chuck Moore led the Commodores with 19 points.
   The Bucs finish the non-conference slate at 7-4, a record that DeChellis is very happy with.
   "We've had a very good non-conference race," DeChellis said. "In 11 games we go 7-4. Virginia's a top seven team in the country this week, Vanderbilt and South Carolina is in the SEC, and VCU was a game we had a chance to win.
   "There was no disgrace to who we lost to on the road. I thought we did a good job of taking care of business at home, and I thought we did a good job wining a couple of road games that we needed to win. We've had a very competitive schedule, and we came out pretty well."
   Vanderbilt improves to 9-3 with the win.