Hunter Harris attempts a jump hook in ETSU's 89-75 win against Samford on Thursday at Freedom Hall.
The venue was different and so was the result for the East Tennessee State basketball team.
In a matchup of two teams desperately needing a victory, the Bucs pulled away in the second half for an 89-75 win over Samford at Freedom Hall on Thursday night.
“It was a good win,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “Obviously, when you lose four, any win is a good win. We've played five tight games and we played better the last 10 minutes of the game. We were better down the stretch.”
Lester Wilson led a balanced attack with 20 points before fouling out, and Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Bucs.
It was the first of three home games ETSU will play at Freedom Hall this season. They're also scheduled to play Stephen F. Austin on Saturday and Marshall on Nov. 30. The announced attendance was 2,640.
“The venue was a lot of fun,” Bartow said. “I mean, obviously, we've got to continue to win, but the more we win, the more crowd we'll get. If you could fill this place, it would be an incredible venue. It's a great place to play basketball. I think the guys enjoyed it.”
Bartow's players echoed those sentiments.
“I'm not gonna lie ... I feel like I'm home over here,” Wilson said. “I hope they make some things happen where we can play here the rest of the time I'm here. I love it.”
Jalen Riley added 16 points, including making 10 foul shots in a row down the stretch. Riley didn't play in the first half as punishment for being 15 minutes late to the team's shoot-around.
A.J. Merriweather had 15 points and Rashawn Rembert added 13.
The Bucs had fallen behind 54-47 with 13:35 left before they made their move. They cut it to 56-52 and then held Samford (1-4) scoreless for 4 ½ minutes.
Rembert swished a 3-point shot from the left corner with 8:51 left, giving ETSU a 63-56 lead. It capped an 11-0 run that was punctuated by Gadsden-Gilliard's 3-point play when he bulled his way to the basket and was fouled while scoring.
“Kinard played like man,” Bartow said. “He was great.”
That play, as it turned out, gave the Bucs the lead for good at 57-56.
In the first half, Wilson came off the bench and sparked the Bucs, scoring 10 points in just over five minutes. Wilson and Gadsden-Gilliard, a power forward who spent some time playing point guard, kept ETSU in the game, combining for 23 of their team's 34 points before halftime.
“I never thought about the start,” said Wilson, who went 8 for 13, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range. “That never really bothered me. It doesn't matter. It shows every night it doesn't matter. Whoever's in is in. The time you get, you have to make the best of it.”
With Hunter Harris saddled by foul trouble for the second game in a row, Lukas Poderis played a key role in the win. The fifth-year senior finished with nine rebounds and two blocked shots to go along with six points.
It was a total team effort.
The Bucs took care of the ball, with nine turnovers, out-rebounded Samford 41-28 and shot 50 percent from the field. They went 26 for 38 from the line in a game in which there were 53 fouls called. Samford was 19 for 29 from the line.
Tim Williams led the Bulldogs with 21 points. Raijon Kelly added 20.