The ETSU men’s basketball team welcomed Wofford for their final home game of the season on Saturday.
The Bucs came into the game with a record of 20-10 and 13-4 in conference play. With this win, the Bucs would lock up the second seed in the SoCon Tournament. The last time the two played, Wofford’s first half lead was too much for the Bucs to make a comeback, and they lost 87-73.
A lot has changed since then. The Bucs are 7-2 since that game. The Bucs take a lot of pride playing in front of their home crowd. They are 12-2 at home and have learned how to win close games since both last played.
The biggest takeaway from the first game was when Wofford went to the foul line 29 times and made 24 of them, which made a difference in the score. The Bucs also know they didn’t play their best basketball, shooting just 30 percent in the first half, but this game definitely didn’t start that way.
The Bucs started the game off very physical on defense, committing a few early fouls. That didn’t stop the Bucs defensive pressure, though.
The team forced seven turnovers in the first four minutes. At the 15:54 mark after a media timeout, the Bucs led 12-4. The Bucs were very efficient offensively, shooting 68 percent from field goal range and 75 percent from three-point range.
Despite the good start by the Bucs, they soon started to have turnovers of their own. They helped Wofford battle back from a ten-point deficit to decrease the Bucs’ lead to 25-22.
Throughout the first half, the Bucs struggled with foul trouble, which allowed for Wofford to keep the game close. At the half, the Bucs led 38-37. They shot 63 percent from field goal range and 57.1 percent from three.
Despite the great shooting, the Bucs had 17 team fouls and 10 turnovers. Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) led all scorers with an efficient 14 points.
Wofford’s offense started to get going in the last five minutes of the half. As a team, the Terriers shot 47.8 percent from field goal range, which helped them overcome a slow start from the Bucs’ defensive pressure.
At the start of the second half, the Bucs continued to force Wofford to take difficult shots, only allowing one made shot on nine attempts. Just like the first half, the Bucs’ offense performed well. However, with the turnovers, they had allowed Wofford to keep the Bucs’ lead within three.
At the 10:01 mark, the Bucs went on a scoring drought before a score by Guyn. At the 8:09 mark with four Bucs players in foul trouble, Wofford was able to cut the Bucs lead to just 53-52.
The Bucs’ defense at that point was only allowing Wofford to shoot 26.3 percent. Wofford took its first lead of the game at the 6:40 mark, leading 55-53.
In the final five minutes, both teams went back and forth. A jumper by Desonta Bradford (Humboldt, Tenn.) gave the Bucs a three-point lead, forcing a Wofford timeout.
At the 3:26 media timeout, the Bucs defense allowed Wofford zero of its last five shots. With 15 seconds left, with the Bucs leading 67-66, the game came down to free throws and defense for the Bucs.
After two clutch free throws by Peter Jurkin (Juba, South Sudan), the Bucs led 69-66. Followed by a missed three point attempt to tie the game, AJ Merriweather (Jackson, Tenn.) grabbed his third rebound of the game in his first game back from injury. After two free throws with one second remaining, the Bucs closed out the game 71-66.
With the win, the Bucs improve their record to 21-10 and 14-4 in conference play. They will be the No. 2 seed in the SoCon Tournament on March 5.