The Bucs came out ready to make up for the loss against Chattanooga, taking control of the game against Western Carolina University on Feb. 15 in Freedom Hall.
The Bucs played confidently on defense, already totaling 19 rebounds, but were 15-30 shooting on offense.
The Bucs and the Western Carolina Catamounts went back-and-forth the entire game. From turnover to turnover to basket to basket, the teams were neck-and-neck up until the end of the first half. A shot by Western Carolina player Justin Browning at the buzzer sent the Catamounts up 38-35, and the Bucs started the second half down by three.
They were not down for long in the second half, when Desonta Bradford (Humboldt, Tenn.) and Deuce Bello (Greensboro, N.C.) shined on both offense and defense. Both players set their career-highs in scoring in the game against Western Carolina, Bradford totaling 20 points and Bello totaling 18 points.
“We just had to move on to the next game and that’s what we did today,” Bello said.
Bradford also left the game with six rebounds and four assists and scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. After the loss against Chattanooga, he knew the team needed to be aggressive in order to get a win.
“Coach told me I wasn’t really ready to play in the first half, which I wasn’t. So I tried to turn it up to get us a win,” Bradford said.
The team was able to capitalize on the 50/50 plays they had been lacking against Chattanooga. There were only four turnovers in the second half, rather than the nine turnovers in the first half. The Bucs were passing and rebounding more confidently than they had the entire first half, resulting in the shining moments of Bello and Bradford.
Bello, playing forward most of the game rather than his starting guard position, was not only content but very satisfied to just be playing the game.
Bello scored 18 points, which led the Bucs to victory.
Coach Steve Forbes said the effort from Bello in the game against Western Carolina set the team up for the win.
“Deuce played with great energy,” Forbes said. “He defended, he played two different positions, he scored, he drove it, he made a three. He just had a really good floor game.”
The efforts by Bradford, Bello and the entire team led them to the 83-77 victory over the Catamounts. The Bucs are now 10-4 in SoCon play, with Western Carolina being 6-8 in SoCon play.
The Bucs will travel to the Citadel on Feb. 18 and to Mercer on Feb. 20. Forbes said it can be hard to win on the road, but he is confident in the ability of his team and he is excited to finish the season out next week in Johnson City.