East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow was only half-joking when he said he got a little panicky as Chattanooga rallied its way back into the game on Tuesday night.
But Bartow’s players remained calm, and the Bucs rolled to a 79-66 victory over the Mocs in the first round of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament at the MSHA Athletic Center.
“The coach was panicking a little bit, but fortunately the players didn’t,” Bartow said. “We’ve got some veteran players that are very comfortable in tight situations. They want the ball in their hands.
“I liked the look in our guys’ eyes tonight. I think they were focused and wanted to play.”
ETSU improved to 19-15 and advanced to a second-round game, either Friday or Saturday. The site and opponent have yet to be determined. The Mocs finished at 18-15.
“Give them credit,” Chattanooga coach Will Wade said. “We wish them luck, hope they win the tournament and bring it back to the Southern Conference.”
The Bucs were on a roll as the midway point of the second half neared, leading 54-41 and the crowd of 3,045 loudly on their side. Then the Mocs, with baskets from four different players, scored 10 points in a row to cut it to 54-51.
“We all had cool heads,” said ETSU guard Rashawn Rembert, who scored 17 points. “He tends to get a little panicky at times, but me and a lot of the older guys give him that breather that he needs.”
Jalen Riley scored three points in a row and Lester Wilson swished a 3-point shot as ETSU pulled away again.
The Bucs eventually led by 15, and once they had the lead late, they did what they do best -- make free throws. ETSU connected on 10 in a row from the line in the final 3:22.
“Knock on wood ... we’ve got some good free throw shooters,” said Bartow, whose team made 21 of 25 from the line.
Riley was the main weapon, making 9 of 10 foul shots and finishing with a game-high 23 points. Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard added 12 points and A.J. Merriweather had 11. Hunter Harris pulled in 12 rebounds.
The Bucs equaled their season low with four 3-point baskets, but won this game with defense. They held Chattanooga to 31 percent shooting and had a season-high eight blocked shots.
“The zone really gave us problems,” Wade said. “We don’t shoot the ball very well. They had a good game plan. They’ve got the right personnel. They’ve got two really good guards.”
ETSU limited Z. Mason to 12 points, more than seven below his season average. He did grab 15 rebounds.
“We didn’t guard perfectly, but it was one of our better performances defensively,” Bartow said.
Chattanooga tried to slow the pace, but the Bucs managed to run when they could. Riley beat the Mocs to the rim on several occasions.
Martynas Barieka led Chattanooga with 15 points, while Casey Jones added 12 and Eric Robertson had 11. The Mocs had 22 offensive rebounds while out-rebounding the Bucs, 44-43.
Bartow said he wasn’t expecting much from Petey McClain, the Bucs’ usual starting point guard. McClain, nursing an ankle injury that kept him out of the two Atlantic Sun Conference tournament games, was in the starting lineup and assisted on ETSU’s first three baskets.
He played 14 minutes and finished with four assists.
ETSU improved to 3-1 in CIT games.
“Any time you can compete to win a trophy, it’s kind of a neat thing,” Bartow said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Now the Bucs get to wait for the rest of the first-round CIT games to be completed tonight before they find out their next assignment.
“It’s a little weird not knowing who we’re playing, but we’ll be ready,” Riley said. “We have to buckle down and practice and be ready to play when tipoff comes.”comments powered by Disqus