The pressure is always greatest for those at the top, and the Bucs witnessed that first hand Monday night. ETSU held the longest winning streak in the country with 16 straight games. The UNC-Greensboro Spartans watched on from the No. 2 spot in the SoCon. The Bucs were playing in front of the away crowd, fighting to keep their streak alive.
ETSU was behind by a small margin to end the first half, 33-31.
However, it is not uncommon for the Bucs to keep it close in the first half, only to pull away during back half of the game. This is what happened just two days before against Virginia Military Institute. The Bucs led the first half by just one point, yet ended the game with a 14 point victory.
That was not the case Monday. During the first 20 minutes, it was obvious the Bucs were having an off shooting night. They shot 32 percent from the field, and had a small drop in 3-point percentage as well, shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
This was a far cry from the 40 percent they had been shooting during this recent hot streak. On the other end of the court, the Spartans were on fire from three. The rough shooting for the Bucs can be attributed to the staunch defense of the Spartans, who recorded eight blocks before the half.
ETSU is known for their ability to finish games strong, and looked poised to do the same, but the second half told a different story.
The final half of the game meant ETSU shot 12.5 percent from three, and continued to shoot 32 percent on all field goals. UNCG showed no signs of slowing down their defensive grind, and grabbed 4 steals and swatted away another 6 shots. The Spartans shot out in front early in the second half, and denied all attempts to cut the deficit.
The final score was 74-56 and the end of a 16-game streak.
Losses during the regular season hurt far less than in the postseason. The Bucs still sit atop the SoCon rankings, with UNCG two games behind them.
With a record of 22-5, ETSU still has four games left in the season to beat last year’s record of 24-7 and secure the first seed in the SoCon Tournament. So far, UNCG is the only conference rival to beat the Bucs.
However, the Bucs did beat them at home earlier in the season and defeated the Spartans last year in the SoCon Championship.
No streak can live forever, but the Bucs still have their sights on the remaining games of the season, starting with a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Western Carolina Catamounts.