Bucs to much for Bulldogs

Photo by Erica Yoon
ETSU freshman Greg Surmacz is fouled on the shot.

  JOHNSON CITY--The East Tennessee State Buccaneers didn't surprise anyone with their play Tuesday night. In fact, the team that showed up was lucky to win an AAC game, let alone a tough Southern Conference outing.
  Against the NAIA's Union College, the Bucs struggled to put away the squad in the first half and let the team within 10 points at the top of the second half. ETSU finally got in its rhythm to pull away for a 102-67 victory in Memorial Center.
  ETSU (4-6) finished with five guys in double-digit scoring, but again struggled to defend the three, which kept the Bulldogs (6-7) in the game for some time.
  Tim Smith and Travis Strong led the scoring efforts for the Bucs, who saw good things from Ben Rhoda, Dillion Sneed and freshman post Greg Surmacz, who got his first action of the season.
  "It was a good win," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. "Five guys in double figures is encouraging. We have been dribbling too much, but we had some bright spots. It's good to see Surmacz get some action, and the shooting percentage of Timmy and Travis was much better."
  Smith and Strong each had 22 points.
  "We're still trying to put our big losses behind us and get ready for the conference games," said Smith, who shot a much-improved 7-of-12 from the floor. "There's always time to get better. Hopefully, we can get another winning streak going."
  The junior guard also had four rebounds and four assists while Strong reconnected on his outside shot and tallied three steals.
  "The shot's feeling pretty good," Strong said. "I basically worked harder in practice, and tonight I stayed down in my stance."
  Sneed posted another double-double with 11 boards and 10 points. Rhoda tallied 15 points with six boards and four assists while Surmacz had 10 points and eight boards in just 20 minutes of action, which mostly came in the second half.
  "When I first go in there, I wanted to get into the flow and get my legs under me," said the Canadian Surmacz of his first-game experience. "I really didn't feel that rusty. I played better defense down the stretch and got some open spots."
  State built a 23-point lead in the first half, going on a 25-4 run at one point in the game, although the squad lost control after returning to the hardwood from the locker room.
  Union's Jerrod Gibbons and Aaron Troutman each blazed the nets from downtown, cutting the Buccaneer lead to 10.
  The Bucs rallied back behind Strong, who tickled the twine from three-land four times late in the stanza.
  ETSU stepped up its defensive presence late (30 overall Bulldog turnovers) and forced several missed shots while dominating the boards.
  Also for the Bucs, Chris Mitchell came through with nine points, seven boards and three blocks while Sam Oatman collected eight points and three steals.
  Troutman topped the Bulldogs with 20 points, with Gibbons connecting for 18.
  The Bucs are going to take four days off before returning to campus on Dec. 26 to prepare for a big non-conference battle on the road at Memphis.
  "It's good to have that layoff, whether you are 10-0 or 2-6," Bartow said. "It's good for us because we are a physically banged-up team. I told the guys starting next week we are 0-0. Memphis will be the first part of that new season."
  Notes: ETSU junior post Brad Nuckles' foot injury is still day-to-day, according to Bartow, who suggested that the team may have to file a waiver for a medical red-shirt.
  "We are going to re-assess the injury when we come back," Bartow said. "He may have to red-shirt. The bad foot slows him down, and that's not good on the floor. I thought he was primed for a good year."
  The Bucs will need to know something by the Memphis game. If Nuckles does indeed play against the Tigers, the team will try to use him at 60 percent health the remainder of the year.
  "We're right on the line (for filing for his red-shirt waiver)," Bartow added. "The odds are, however, we're going to try to play him."
  ETSU's road trip to Memphis will be televised by WAPK (UPN). Game time is set for 8 p.m.