JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Adam Sollazzo got his revenge and the East Tennessee State basketball team continued its winning ways.
Sollazzo’s free throw with 2.4 seconds left was the difference as the Bucs got past North Florida 64-63 Monday night in an Atlantic Sun game at UNF Arena.
The senior point guard scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half as the Bucs rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to win their fifth game in a row. North Florida knocked ETSU out of the A-Sun tournament last March, and this was a game the Bucs had circled on their calendars.
“I think in the first half I was just trying too hard,” Sollazzo said. “I wanted it too bad. I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time. I never wanted to win a game so bad in my life and I think I was letting that affect me.”
Sollazzo shot 1 for 7 in the first half as the Bucs (10-7 overall, 5-2 A-Sun) fell behind by 15. But his 9-for-11 second-half performance keyed the comeback. ETSU shot 68 percent after halftime.
“I think that was a pretty good looking second half,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “To come back like that on the road, that was something. We certainly have some momentum going now.”
Isiah Brown added 15 points — 12 in the first half — for ETSU, while Marcus Dubose had 12 and Sheldon Cooley had 11.
With the game tied at 63, Sollazzo was fouled as he drove toward the hoop. After he made the front end of a one-and-one, he missed his second try. North Florida got the rebound and called timeout with 1.7 seconds left.
Matt Sauey then launched a fullcourt pass that Travis Wallace somehow caught cleanly just left of the basket. His contested shot was off the mark and the Bucs escaped with the victory.
“We did what we wanted to do,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “We got the shot and it missed.”
Sollazzo and Cooley combined to score 22 of the Bucs’ 27 points during one stretch late in the second half. Dubose tied the game at 50 with a mid-range jumper with 6:32 left and gave ETSU its first lead since the early going with a 3-pointer 28 seconds later.
The Bucs led by as many as five points until North Florida managed to get back to even at 61-61 on a 3-pointer by Sauey, his second of the season.
Brown, a 48-percent free throw shooter, then made two from the line with 49 seconds left to give ETSU a 63-61 lead before Jimmy Williams made two for the Ospreys to tie in back up with 33 seconds remaining.
The Bucs then milked the clock until the final seconds when Sollazzo began a drive to the hoop and was fouled before he could put up a shot.
“Adam was phenomenal in the second half,” Bartow said. “Marcus Dubose made some huge plays and Sheldon Cooley made some huge plays. Isiah Brown obviously was big in the first half.”
The second half was quite a different story than the first. Thanks to a 16-2 North Florida run, the Bucs found themselves behind early. The Ospreys led 30-15 after Jerron Granberry hit his third 3-pointer of the half. The Bucs eschewed their usual array of zone defenses and went with a man-to-man for a while in an attempt to slow the Ospreys.
North Florida led 34-23 at halftime and it could have been a larger spread if not for Brown. The ETSU senior forward had 12 points, six on three tremendous dunks off passes from Sollazzo.
Brown wasn’t getting much help. At halftime, Tommy Hubbard was 1 for 10 from the field and Sollazzo was 1 for 7. ETSU shot 31 percent in the first half, missing all five of its 3-point tries.
“We didn’t panic at halftime,” Bartow said. “It was quiet locker room.”
Granberry led North Florida (9-11, 3-4) with 14 points. Parker Smith added 12 and Andy Diaz and Wallace each had 11. Wallace also had 12 rebounds.
“I don’t consider this revenge,” Brown said. “The stakes weren’t high enough. They beat us in the conference tournament and we just beat them in the regular season. I won’t feel that satisfaction until it’s all said and done and we win the tournament.”
According to the ETSU record book, the victory was the 1,200th in the program’s history.
The Bucs return to action Saturday when they play host to Lipscomb.