DeLAND, Fla. — Two days after a miserable performance down on the Gulf Coast, East Tennessee State’s Bucs climbed back on that emotional rollercoaster and took another thrill ride to victory in Central Florida.
The Bucs overcame a 20-point deficit with 12 minutes left to beat Stetson 62-61 before a stunned crowd Saturday in the Edmunds Center. Rashawn Rembert sealed the deal when he calmly buried a 3-pointer from the right corner with 5.6 seconds left.
“That’s what you want, just a chance to win it,” said Rembert, who scored 11 of his 16 points during the comeback. “My teammates had enough confidence in me to get me the ball, and we pulled out another win. We’ve been doing it all year. Coach calls us the Comeback Kids.”
The Bucs (8-18, 6-7) trailed 54-34 with 12 minutes left, and there was no evidence another major comeback was brewing. They still looked like the team that shot 22 percent in a 24-point loss Thursday night at Florida Gulf Coast.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. The Bucs turned up the defense and outscored the Hatters 28-7 from there to the finish.
It was just another Saturday at the office for ETSU coach Murry Bartow. His team is now 6-0 in weekend conference games, and has overcome double-digit deficits in three of those.
“Down 20 in the second half, on the road ... just a great win,” said Bartow. “As we’ve seen, this team has an innate ability to come back. And we’ve done it with different mixes of guys.”
They did it this time with pressure defense — a three-quarters press, with trapping in the half-court. After moving the ball so crisply and shooting it so well, the Hatters came unglued in a flurry of turnovers. They committed 14 of their 17 in the second half.
“We didn’t handle their pressure well,” said coach Casey Alexander. “That turned the whole game around.”
The Hatters managed just two field goals in the last 12:09. Aaron Graham’s fifth 3-pointer made it 61-57 with 1:28 remaining.
Hunter Harris answered with a short bank shot for the Bucs. They then forced a travelling call on the other end to set the stage for Rembert’s heroics.
“If you look at his percentage in league play, he’s a great 3-point shooter,” said Bartow. “He’s one of those guys like Jarvis (Jones); he doesn’t mind taking a big shot. And if you ask him his favorite spot, it’s right over there in the right corner.”
Rembert is a Tampa kid, and his parents had sat through some pretty sorry basketball on this road trip. That fact wasn’t lost on him.
“It was tough with my parents sitting in the stands,” he said. “They were giving me the death stare when we were down 20.”
Rembert made 6 of 10 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He came into the game shooting 41 percent behind the arc.
Jones led the Bucs with 17 points on 8-for-16 shooting. Fighting a respiratory illness, he made just 4 of 19 shots at Florida Gulf Coast.
“My whole body aches, but getting this win helps,” said Jones. “I guess these comebacks are second nature to us now. We’ve got that will to win.
“We got real aggressive on defense out there today, and they panicked.”
The Bucs also got 12 points and 10 rebounds from Harris — his first double-double of the season.
It was another quiet night for Lester Wilson. He was pulled from the starting lineup, along with point guard Petey McClain, and didn’t bring much offense off the bench, going for five points on 2-for-9 shooting. The redshirt freshman was 1 for 9 at Florida Gulf Coast.
Stetson (10-14, 7-6) had just two double-figure scorers. Graham led the way with 15, and Adam Pegg had 10.
The Hatters were 11 of 26 from the 3-point line but made only two in the second half.
ETSU may finally be able to string together wins for the first time this season. It hosts Kennesaw State, the last-place team, on Thursday night.