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Bucs blast VMI, sit alone atop SoCon standings

Joe Avento • Updated Jan 11, 2016 at 9:23 PM

This time, the East Tennessee State University basketball team didn’t need any last-second heroics.

A spectacular first half and a record shooting performance made sure of that.

T.J. Cromer scored 23 points and tied the school record for 3-point percentage as the Bucs rolled past Virginia Military Institute, 88-51, in a Southern Conference game Monday at Freedom Hall.

ETSU also tied the school record with 15 3-point baskets for the second consecutive game.

“We shot the ball really well,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “They moved it and shared it. They’re really starting to look for each other.”

Cromer went 6-of-7 from 3-point range, tying Alvin West’s school record. West went 6-for-7 against Brigham Young to start the 1990-91 season.

“It’s a great feeling,” Cromer said. “It feels like we’re coming together as a team.”

The Bucs tied the record on Stetson Moore’s long shot from the left wing with 38 seconds left. They had a chance to break it after they got the ball back when Moore drew a charge, but Forbes called off the dogs and wouldn’t let his players try another shot.

“We really wanted him to make one more so he could break the record,” Cromer said. “He (Forbes) was showing great sportsmanship. We had already sealed the victory.”

On their way to a 47-22 halftime lead, the Bucs dominated the stat sheet like they hadn’t done all year. They held a 27-10 rebounding advantage, shot 52 percent from the field — including 10-for-16 from 3-point range — and held the Keydets to 31-percent shooting.

It all added up to a fifth consecutive victory for ETSU, the only team in the SoCon with an unblemished conference record thanks to Chattanooga’s victory over Wofford on Monday night.

The Bucs improved to 10-6 overall, 3-0 in the conference.

Lester Wilson continued his resurgence with 16 points, making 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He has nine 3-pointers in the last two games.

“It feels good to be out there with my team and being at full health,” said Wilson, who has been rehabbing from offseason ankle surgery.

Petey McClain had eight assists for ETSU, which was credited with 18 assists on 30 baskets.

The Bucs got 47 points from their reserves.

“It might be the first time in my career where my bench outscored the starters,” Forbes said. “I can’t remember in my 27 years that that’s ever happened.”

Desonta Bradford added 11 points for the Bucs. ETSU’s leading scorer, Ge’Lawn Guyn, was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting.

ETSU wound up with a 46-26 rebounding edge and went 15 for 31 on 3-pointers.

VMI’s QJ Peterson, the SoCon’s leading scorer, was held to six points, 13 below his average. The Keydets (5-10, 0-4) were led by Julian Eleby’s 10 points.

The runaway performance came a couple of days after the Bucs needed a last-second 3-pointer from Cromer to beat-UNC Greensboro.

“We came out focused and we knew if we jumped on them early tonight we would get them away,” Cromer said.

ETSU hits the road for its next two games, Thursday at Samford and Saturday at Chattanooga.

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