After an exciting season claiming No. 1 in the Southern Conference, winning the conference tournament and entering the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years, the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team’s season came to a close this past Thursday against No. 4-seeded Florida.
“I’m really proud of our team,” said Head Coach Steve Forbes. “To get here, they battled all year long and it’s a testament to these guys up here how hard they’ve battled.”
Due to early turnovers by the Bucs, the Gators were able to score off of the Bucs’ mistakes and get an early lead. Before the half ended, the Bucs responded with a 14-6 run with eight points coming from junior forward David Burrell (Milwaukee). The Bucs ended the first half behind the Gators, 33-32.
Burrell ended the game with 11 points.
ETSU shot well in the first half. The team shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from the 3-point line compared to Florida’s 43 percent from the field and one for 10 shooting from the 3-point line. The only big difference in the first half were fouls, free-throws and steals. Florida captured eight points at the free-throw line compared to ETSU’s zero, they finished five fouls compared to ETSU’s nine, and they stole the ball seven times while the Bucs only finished with four.
A 9-0 run in the second half caused the game to go downhill for the Bucs. After starting the second half with a 3-pointer by T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) to give the Bucs their first lead of the game at 37-35, the Gators made sure that would be their only lead. Florida fired back with three straight 3-pointers to create a 9-0 run but also to create a gap that they would keep for the remainder of the game.
“…I thought they played an outstanding game,” said Forbes. “They turned us over and I was really worried about that going into the game. Live ball turnovers, and they turned a lot of those into points and that’s really hard to defend. I thought their length and athleticism gave us problems pretty much the entire game.”
Cromer ended the game with the team high, 19 points.
The game high came from Florida’s Devin Robinson who finished with 24 points and added 7 rebounds.
The Gators would go on to defeat the Bucs 80-65 and advance to the second round where they defeated Virginia 65-39.