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Kelly Hodge

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Bucs staying home for A-Sun opener

March 1st, 2014 5:31 pm by Kelly Hodge

Bucs staying home for A-Sun opener

East Tennessee State basketball fans will get at least one home game in March after all.

When the dust settled on the regular season Saturday, the Bucs emerged as the 4-seed for the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament next week. They’ll host fifth-seeded Lipscomb in a Tuesday night quarterfinal.

The Bucs (17-14, 10-8) had a chance to nail down third place Friday night at USC Upstate, but lost 79-73 despite a career-high 33 points by Rashawn Rembert. That left them to wait out Saturday games involving Lipscomb and North Florida.

Those teams each won – Lipscomb defeating Stetson 83-76 at home, and North Florida winning 87-77 at Kennesaw State – to create a three-way tie for fourth place. The Bucs held the tiebreaker by virtue of going 3-1 against the other two.

Lipscomb (14-14, 10-8) has already won once in Johnson City this season, pulling out an 82-80 victory on Jan. 9. Freshman J.C. Hampton hit the game winner with four seconds left.

In what has been a wildly entertaining series over the last nine years, the Bucs returned the favor a month later with a 96-88 victory in Nashville. Jalen Riley led the way with a career-high 30 points in that one.

The survivor of Tuesday night’s rubber match will likely be sent to top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun’s new tournament format, in which the higher-seeded teams host all the way through. Semifinal games are set for Thursday night at 6:30 and 8:30, with the championship Sunday at 2.

CSS will televise the semifinals, and ESPN2 will pick up the title game.

Florida Gulf Coast, the defending champion, tied with Mercer for the best record in the league, at 14-4. The Eagles claimed the No. 1 seed because they swept third-place Upstate, while the Bears split with the Spartans.

Mercer and Upstate are the only teams to have swept the Bucs during the regular season.

ETSU students will be admitted free to Tuesday night's game, which could mark the end of the A-Sun era for the Bucs. The league has announced a $5 ticket price for students at the various tournament sites, but ETSU athletic director Richard Sander said the university would pick up that cost here.

"It's rare to host a postseason tournament game," said Sander in a Friday release, "and to make it a successful event we need a fantastic home-court advantage. Allowing our students to be here free of charge is simply the right thing to do."

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