KENNESAW, Ga. — Kennesaw State has been where struggling Atlantic Sun Conference basketball teams go to get better, and East Tennessee State got better in a big way on Saturday.
Lester Wilson scored 19 points and the Bucs started out hot and never cooled off in a wire-to-wire 70-60 victory over the Owls at the KSU Convocation Center. It was ETSU’s 14th straight win over Kennesaw.
“We needed that one,” Wilson said. “It would have been easy to come out feeling sorry for yourself after losing over at Mercer. We took care of business and got a good win.”
The Bucs shot a season-high 63 percent from the field and made 9 of 13 shots from 3-point range. They led by as many as 17 points in the second half.
“I thought we played a lot smarter than we did the other night,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “It was a good win. The shooting percentages really tell a lot. That was really the difference in the game.”
Kennesaw State, which lost for the 30th time in its last 31 A-Sun games, shot 39 percent.
The Bucs (5-14 overall, 3-3 A-Sun) got a big contribution from Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, who scored a career-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
“He’s a key guy for us,” Bartow said. “He’s a guy that’s big and he can handle and he can pass and he can make plays and he’s got some size. Obviously, when we recruited him we thought he might be all-conference this year. To this point, hasn’t been as good as expected, and tonight he was great.”
Gadsden-Gillard punctuated his game with a powerful dunk with 5:12 left after the Owls had cut ETSU’s lead to eight.
“It felt pretty good and it came in a win so that was a double bonus,” Gadsden-Gillard said. “I made up my mind I was gonna be aggressive no matter who was guarding me. It’s been a while since I threw one down, so that felt good.”
Jarvis Jones added 15 points and six assists for the Bucs, making 4 of 5 3-pointers.
Wilson went 7 for 9 from the field and made all three of his 3-pointers. He was coming off a three-point, 1-for-7 effort in a loss to Mercer.
“I’m gonna have bad games, but last game, that was unacceptable to hit only one because a lot of them were open,” Wilson said. “Coach told me to get at least 10 shots today but he wants them efficient.”
ETSU held Markeith Cummings, the A-Sun’s leading scorer, to 10 points, eight under his average. Aaron Anderson led the Owls with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Jordan Montgomery added 11 points.
Kennesaw State (2-17, 1-6) was 4 for 25 on 3-pointers.
The game continued a trend for the Bucs, who have yet to put together any streak in A-Sun play while playing to a 3-3 conference record, following each loss with a win and each win with a loss.
“It’s the second time we’ve been able to do this,” Bartow said. “It’s a nice road split. You want to win the first one on a road swing to get a little juice, a little momentum. But when you lose the first one, you have to get ready for the next one and it’s not easy. I’m proud of our guys.”
The Bucs made 8 of 11 shots from 3-point range in the first half, and two of the misses rolled around the rim before coming out. Jones led the way, going 4 for 5 for 12 first-half points as ETSU led 37-24 at halftime.
Meanwhile, Kennesaw State missed nine of its first 10 shots and was 0 for 8 on 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes. Cummings was 2 for 9 in the first half and finished 4 for 11.
The Bucs return to action Thursday with a home game against Jacksonville.