(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
There's a fine line between winning and losing in college basketball. On Thursday night, that line was 15 feet from the basket.
East Tennessee State made 32 of 33 free throws and started a five-game homestand with a 99-93 victory over North Florida at the MSHA Athletic Center.
"That was a lot of free throws," said Rashawn Rembert, who went 12 for 12 from the line and scored 22 points. "I was getting tired of going up to the line after a while."
The Bucs made their last 23 free throws, including all 21 in the second half.
"That's pretty good," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. "You can win a lot of games. That's encouraging because a lot of times you're talking about the flip side of that, why guys can't make free throws."
ETSU had four players in double figures with Hunter Harris leading the way with 24 points. Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard had 19 and Jaylen Riley added 18, making all eight of his free throws.
Harris was the only ETSU player to miss from the foul line, but he could be forgiven. He kept the Bucs in the game early, scoring 18 of his points in the first half.
Point guard Petey McClain finished with nine assists and five rebounds to go along with his seven points. He did not commit a turnover.
"Petey McLain had the game we need Petey McClain to have," Bartow said. "He led us and he was vocal. That's what we need him to do."
ETSU improved to 10-10 overall, 3-4 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Ospreys fell to 11-10, 5-3.
Rembert's 12-for-12 effort from the line was close to a school record. Dimeco Childress went 14 for 14 in a game in 2002. Others to have gone 12 for 12 were Mister Jennings and Greg Dennis, both in 1990.
North Florida led 43-41 at halftime and pulled ahead by five early in the second half. But the Bucs continued to battle, forcing 13 ties.
Rembert, playing with four fouls, scored seven points in a row to fuel a 16-2 ETSU run that turned the tide of the game. His 3-pointer with 8:01 left put the Bucs up for good at 70-68 and was the 16th lead change of the night. They stretched the advantage to 13 points before hanging on down the stretch.
ETSU didn't make a field goal over the final five minutes, but it didn't have to as its final 14 points came from the line.
"This is a huge win for our team," Rembert said. "It's gonna definitely boost our confidence and morale to come back and get a win against a good team that's quality in the conference. That's good for us."
Beau Beech led North Florida with 28 points, making 8 of 11 from 3-point range. Jalen Nesbitt had 17 and Chris Davenport added 15. Travis Wallace, who was coming off a 27-point, 19-rebound effort against Jacksonville, was held to 11 points and three rebounds.
"They did a good job on him," North Florida coach Matt Driscoll said.
The Bucs scored 58 points in the second half with one of their hottest halves in recent memory. After halftime, they made 16 of 27 from the field (59 percent) -- including 5 of 7 from 3-point range -- in addition to making the 21 free throws.
"I tried to turn them loose a little more," said Bartow, whose team had lost four of five coming in. "We'd gotten a little stagnant. We were running a few more sets. I just felt because of some things I had done, we had slowed them down a little.
"We set the tone Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, getting away from sets, letting them know we were gonna give them a little more freedom to go make plays."
The Bucs continue the homestand Saturday when they play host to Jacksonville at 4 p.m.