With this being one of the biggest games of the season, the ETSU men’s basketball team knew the pressure was going to be high. With a win over Samford on Feb. 11, the Bucs would have the chance to keep the one-game distance for first place close in the conference.
The Bucs started off the game with two 3-pointers by Lester Wilson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.), but the Bucs gave up five quick points. Their defensive pressure forced Samford into turnovers, allowing transition points and giving the Bucs an 11-5 advantage at the 15:57 mark.
Sloppiness allowed Samford to stay close when they put on their full court press. At the 12 minute mark, Marcus Johnson of Samford brought the Bucs’ lead to just four. With an 18-14 lead, the Bucs made Samford settle for tough shots but bailed them out with fouls, allowing them to shoot foul shots.
The Bucs struggled at the line, shooting just 1-4. With just a one point lead, Wilson gave the Bucs a four-point advantage with a three-pointer when he entered the game.
Desonta Bradford (Humboldt, Tenn.) converted one-and-one foul to give the Bucs a 24-21 lead with 6:43 to play. With the Bucs capitalizing on Samford’s discontinuation of their press, T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) converted his second three-pointer, giving the Bucs a nine point lead.
After a Samford timeout at the 2:36 mark, the Bucs had a 36-29 lead.
Wilson and Cromer got off to great starts from three-point range. They combined for 6-8 from the three-point line, which helped the Bucs claim a 44-33 lead. They led all scorers with nine points each. The Bucs shot 62 percent from the three-point line in the half, shooting 8-13 from deep. Both teams shot 52 percent on field goals.
To start the second half, Samford was very content with going inside on the first play, scoring six quick points all coming from the free throw and inside areas. Samford started the second half on a 8-1 run, bringing the lead to 45-41 with 18:04 remaining. Sloppiness allowed Samford to keep the Bucs lead to under just five.
With 49.4 seconds remaining, the game was tied at 79. After a quick contested shot, the Bucs let Samford control the last possession. With 22.8 seconds left, the Bucs defense stepped up at the perfect time, forcing a turnover by Samford to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the ETSU and Samford offenses were at their best. They both made shots when it mattered. With 1:37 remaining in OT following a 3-pointer by Samford, the Bucs called a timeout leading 88-86.
With 31.7 seconds left, T.J. Cromer hit a big shot when the shot clock had three seconds remaining. However, Samford was able to convert a layup with 13.3 seconds left, and it became a free throw finish for the Bucs.
The Bucs won 94-90, keeping them in reach of tying the Chattanooga Mocs.
“To our guys’ credit, we made plays down the stretch and got the win, and now we have the opportunity to play a meaningful game here at home,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes.