Bucs get past Ga. Southern

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- Georgia Southern has always been dangerous against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.
   Southern brought that up-tempo feel to Johnson City Saturday afternoon, but there was one big obstacle that stood in its way: ETSU got in the zone.
   Trailing from the end of the first half into the second, the Bucs caught the Eagles off guard with their man-to-man zone defense, setting up James Anthony and Gerald Fields with big buckets to turn the direction of the game.
   Despite a late Southern charge, ETSU held on for a 91-85 victory at the Memorial Center. The win gives the Buccaneers their best start since the 1991-92 season.
   "I thought the zone helped us in the second half," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow.
   "We pride ourselves on good man-to-man defense. In the first half, we didn't have a answer. They scored 48 points and shot 52 percent. We got them on their heels and it gave us a chance to win. We stuck with them."
   "They got in the zone and it slowed us down a bit," added Eagle coach Jeff Price. "We had trouble scoring in it. They had trouble with our press and couldn't get it in during the first half."
   A big statistic going for the Bucs was their ability to make free throws when they needed them. ETSU took 29 more shots from the charity stripe than Southern.
   "You can't overcome the other team shooting 29 more free throws on the road," Price said. "That's all I'm going to say about that."
   ETSU opened the game on a 10-2 run behind inside buckets from Fields and Ben Rhoda.
   Southern quickly rallied back behind Frank Bennett and Terry Williams, holding a steady lead throughout much of the first frame.
   The Bucs were carried by Zakee Wadood, who scored 18 of his career-high 30 points in the half. His play was enough to cover for the squad's defense that gave up 48 points in the first half.
   Bartow was visibly unhappy going into the locker room.
   "He told us we weren't playing well, which we weren't," said Tim Smith, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the stanza. "They played well in the first half and the second half. Zakee kept us in it during the first half. We just have to come out more aggressive because they were pushing us around."
   Said Wadood: "He ripped us up pretty good and we deserved it. We knew that. They went in scoring 48 points in a half and we've never give that up. For us to do that, we deserved it."
   Bartow stressed the need for more involvement from the team.
   "Basically the gist of our halftime talk was that they better jump on his back. We needed other guys playing the way he was playing," Bartow said.
   The Bucs played hard with Southern throughout the first part of the second half.
   Jean Francois and Sean Olivier made it tough for ETSU to close in on the lead, but the home squad stepped up it defense, and all they needed was a lift in the crowd.
   That was induced by James Anthony, who busted three treys in the half after scoring one point in the first.
   "We were just trying to contain the ball better," Anthony said. "We got in the zone and they were running a little halfcourt trap that opened up my first two threes."
   It set up a big six-point run from Fields that put ETSU on top by 13 points.
   "Anytime you see a guy like James come up with the big bucket, that gets you going," said Fields. "And even Zakee getting 30, that got me going. It was an up-tempo game and there was a lot of emotion in it."
   Wadood continued to make clutch baskets, despite the comeback cry from Williams and Elton Nesbitt, which got the Bucs down to three with close to a minute to go.
   But missed shots around a tough East Tennessee defense were too much in the final ticks.
   Along with Wadood and Smith, three other Bucs score double digits in the game. Fields and Rhoda tallied 14 apiece, while Anthony dropped in 13.
   "It was a big win. Georgia Southern, we have a lot of respect for them," Bartow said. "We were scared of them coming in. They are athletic and well-coached and we were fortunate to come out with a win."
   The Bucs will take a few days off before getting back to work for Clemson on the 15th of this month.