The ETSU men’s basketball team faced the Green Bay Phoenix on Tuesday at 6 a.m. as part of ESPN’s annual 24-hour college basketball marathon. The early morning tip-off did not bother the Bucs as they defeated the Phoenix 103-90 in front of 3,992 fans.
The Bucs won the tip-off to begin the first half. Many fouls on the Bucs cost them early as Green Bay was sent to the line on multiple occasions, completing five of eight attempts. The Bucs continued to try to find momentum in the first half of the game, but it did not come easy while trying to compete with the Phoenix’s 62.5 percent field goal percentage and their two makes on two attempts from outside the three-point line. Green Bay led 15-4 with 15:52 remaining.
Halfway through the first half, Benny Lufile (Burlington, Ontario, Canada) came into the game and gave a big spark for the Bucs. Lufile had eight points, the most on the team, scoring 60 percent from the field and two for two on the free-throw line.
“It was tough,” said Lufile. “Once A.J. (Merriweather) got in foul trouble, I had to step [up], and I had some good plays and we began to make runs.”
The Bucs’ performance on rebounds started to pick up as they passed Green Bay in total rebounds, 19-10. With 7:24 remaining, the Bucs achieved their first lead of the game, 27-26.
Carrington Love (Milwaukee, Wis.) led Green Bay in scoring in the first half with 15 points, and Lufile led the Bucs with 10. The first half looked good for the Bucs as they finished the half leading 48-41.
ETSU started the second half shooting on all cylinders. They Bucs were 66.7 percent from the field and the three-point line in the first five minutes of the half. Three ETSU players were in double figures in the start of the second half: Lufile with 10 points, TJ. Cromer with 12 points and Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) with 12 points. Kenneth Lowe (Little Chute, Wis.) for Green Bay began to put points on the board and matched teammate Carrington with 15 points. ETSU remained ahead 58-52.
Despite ETSU keeping an 81-71 lead with about seven minutes remaining in the game, four of the five starters for Green Bay were in double digits: Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) with 12, Lowe with 23, Love with 18 and Charles Cooper with 10. Green Bay also began to put up more numbers on rebounds, leading the Bucs 38-36. Guyn continued to look unstoppable as he led the Bucs in scoring with 23 points.
“It could be different guys every night,” said Guyn. “Tonight was my night. I hope every night is my night, and I hope it’s the team’s night every night.”
ETSU spread the ball well in the middle of the second half with 14 assists compared to Green Bay’s 10.
The Bucs took off with their lead and finished the game 103-90.
“What a great win for our program,” said ETSU’s first-year head coach Steve Forbes. “I thought playing at 6 a.m. on ESPN was a tremendous showcase for our school and our city. The fans did a great job with showing up, and they helped us win the game. Having an atmosphere is big, and I think that was a big deal for us.”
The Bucs will now prepare to play three games straight on the road, starting Friday against the Villanova Wildcats at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.