Jarvis Jones raised his scoring to a whole new level, and this time he finished it in style.
The senior guard poured in a career-high 36 points, including three deep 3-pointers late in overtime, as East Tennessee State rallied past Lipscomb 90-88 on a snow-swept Saturday night at the Dome.
Jones had just turned in his best offensive performance, 23 points, there two nights earlier, but he missed a layup at the horn in a two-point loss to Northern Kentucky. He admitted that he hadn’t slept very well thinking about it.
“I was very frustrated the other night,” he said, “but I knew this time was going to come again. I had to redeem myself.”
Jones did so in a big way, leading the Bucs back from 10 down with 6½ minutes left, and it looked like he might write a dramatic end in regulation when he buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 16 seconds left to give ETSU a 79-77 lead. But Deonte Alexander slashed to the basket on the other end and was fouled with eight seconds to play.
The senior guard calmly made both free throws to send the Bison to overtime. They seemingly had regained the advantage.
The Bucs were without leading scorer Lester Wilson and big men Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and John Walton — all of whom had fouled out. And they were already missing starting forward Hunter Harris, who was home in Nashville with his ailing father.
The lineup in overtime included Jones, sophomore Rashawn Rembert and freshmen Petey McClain, Mario Stramaglia and Yunio Barrueta. The Bucs had to play smallball.
“The overtime was a gritty, gritty performance by five guys,” said coach Murry Bartow. “We were playing with five guards.”
The Bison still had all their weapons, and that included 6-10, 285-pound freshman Stephen Hurt. They led 83-81 after a free throw by Hurt when Jones rose to the occasion.
His 3-pointer put the Bucs up by one with 1:26 to play. Martin Smith gave Lipscomb the lead again with a spinning floater in the lane. Then it was a long 3-pointer by Jones that hit hard on the front of the rim and softly bounced through. ETSU led 87-85 with 47 seconds left.
The Bison again had an answer 10 seconds later when J.J. Butler stroked a three from the top of the key. Trailing by one again, Jones delivered the decisive blow with another left-handed bomb from the left wing with 13 seconds left.
“I think everybody sensed he was going to finish it this time,” said Stramaglia, who was seemingly in the middle of everything down the stretch. “He was pretty frustrated the other night, but we want the ball in his hands at the end.”
Said Barrueta, “We all contributed together; we fought. Jarvis hit big shots. If not for him, we wouldn’t have won this game.”
The Bucs were able to escape when Alexander’s hard-driving shot rolled off the rim and the Bison couldn’t , sending a crowd of 2,585 out onto treacherous roadways.
They had been treated to another thriller between these teams — the fifth overtime contest in seven years. (ETSU has won four of them.) This one featured five ties and 12 lead changes.
The Bucs are now 7-17 overall and 5-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference as they get ready to head south for games at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson.
Lipscomb, which had won the earlier meeting in Nashville 60-56, fell to 8-14, 3-8.
Bartow had said Friday that his team needs Jones to be more efficient with his shooting. He had taken 23 shots to get his 23 points against Northern Kentucky.
Jones responded by going 12 of 22 from the field against the Bison and had five of his team’s 12 3-pointers. He was on the floor for 44 minutes.
“I’m so proud of Jarvis Jones,” said Bartow. “The other night after he missed the layup, he didn’t sleep the whole night, nor did his coach. He was spectacular tonight.”
The Bucs got 11 points apiece from Wilson, Rembert, Stramaglia and Barrueta, who also had seven rebounds in just six minutes.
Wilson didn’t score in the second half and fouled out with 6:33 left in regulation. He’s been the team’s leading scorer all season but has now been surpassed by Jones, who raised his average by over a point, to 16.5.
The Bison were led by the Smith brothers, the sophomore forwards from Clarksville. Martin finished with 21 points, while Malcolm had 18 and nine rebounds.
Alexander scored 16 points, and Hurt chipped in with 11 and nine rebounds.
Lipscomb lost despite shooting 54 percent from the field and outrebounding the Bucs 40-34. The Bison committed just a few too many turnovers (20) and missed a few too many free throws (18 of 31).