Despite many students traveling home to be with their families on Thanksgiving, 2.557 fans came out to support the ETSU men’s basketball team as it faced UNC Wilmington on Saturday at Freedom Hall. Turnovers and rebounds hurt the Bucs, causing them to be defeated 94-73.
ETSU won the tip-off to start the game. Senior Deuce Bello (Greensboro, N.C.) came in after two minutes and scored a big two-hand dunk, getting the crowd involved. Baskets continued to fall for the Seahawks as they started building a lead, shooting 77.8 percent from the floor.
ETSU had a hard time keeping up on defense, but it wasn’t long before two consecutive three-pointers from TJ Cromer (Albany, Ga.) got the Bucs back in the game. With 15:15 remaining in the first half, the Bucs were only down three points.
Midway through the half, ETSU came closer to tying the game, but the Seahawks would not let them get too close. A three-pointer from AJ Merriweather (Jackson, Tenn.) put the Bucs within two points, but UNCW went on a 7-0 run before Senior Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) scored a basket on the other side.
Despite being down 34-25 with 7:18 remaining in the first half, ETSU shot well from behind the three-point line. The team overall made five out of six attempts.
Toward the end of the first half, the Seahawks’ lead began to grow. Both teams were shooting well from the floor, with UNCW shooting 61.9 percent and ETSU shooting 52.6 percent with 3:55 remaining. With a strong press by UNCW, it was hard for ETSU to get good ball movement. Turnovers were killing ETSU; the Bucs turned the ball over 11 times compared to UNCW’s two.
In the final minute of the quarter, five points from Cromer pulled the team within 11. One last attempt by Cromer at the end of the first half did not get in the basket, ending the half with ETSU down 48-37.
Cromer was the only Buc in double figures in the first half. He led the team with 14 points.
The Seahawks had two players in double digits: forward Marcus Bryan (Raleigh, N.C.) with 10 points and guard Chris Flemmings (Cary, N.C.) with 11.
Guyn started the second half with a three-pointer. The Bucs were now down by single digits, 48-40. UNCW went back to their press, and the Bucs struggled to build off their three-pointers. The Seahawks picked it back up and went on a 14-0 run. The run stopped with a free throw by Issac Banks with 15:33 remaining.
Bello came in and gave the Bucs some energy, scoring a tough lay up against a few of the Seahawk defenders and getting the foul. After making one on the free throw line, it wasn’t much longer before he stole the ball from a UNCW defender under the rim and finished a big layup. The Bucs were now down 66-46 with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
About half way through the quarter, the Bucs struggled to rebound. The Seahawks had 32 rebounds compared to ETSU’s 16.
The final quarter of the second half did not get better for ETSU. The Seahawks held the Bucs to 73 total points and defeated the Bucs 94-73.
Five UNCW players ended the game in double digits: Bryan with 10 points, Flemmings with 18, Jordan Talley (Richmond, Va.) with 12, C.J. Bryce (Charlotte, N.C.) with 14 and Davontae Cacok (Riverdale, Ga.) with 13.
“We got whipped in all aspects of the game, coaching and playing,” said ETSU coach Steve Forbes. “We knew coming into the game that they (UNCW) were a really good team defensively as far as pressure defense, and we couldn’t turn the ball over. I thought our preparation was good, but we had 21 turnovers, and you can’t win any games when you turn the ball over 21 times. And we also got man-handled on the glass… We have to be accountable across the board.”
The Bucs will play their next home game against Milligan College Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall.