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ETSU picks up big road win at Winthrop

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 17, 2018 at 7:03 PM

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Isaiah Tisdale and the East Tennessee State basketball team stole one from Winthrop on Saturday afternoon.

Tisdale came up with a key steal and found Jeromy Rodriguez for a layup with 21 seconds left to give the Bucs a 76-74 win over the Eagles at Winthrop Coliseum.

With ETSU's lineup consisting of 10 new players, head coach Steve Forbes had been reluctant to use a full-court press through the first three games of the season. With the situation at hand and his team trailing by one, he called the play with a trap in the corner — which the Bucs executed perfectly.

"Truthfully, I've only done a three-quarter court press most of the year with so many new guys," Forbes said. "We got them in the right spots and Tisdale did a great job anticipating. The first time we trapped them, they called a timeout. Then, we got it in the deep corner and trapped it and they threw it right to us."

Tisdale led the Bucs (2-2) with 17 points, six assists and four steals, of course the biggest one at the end.

"Coach said to get one trap and shoot the gap," Tisdale said. "I was looking at their player’s eyes and as soon as I read his eyes, I shot the gap and dumped it off to Jeromy."

Winthrop (2-2) had taken the lead when Nych Smith hit an off-balance shot and converted a free throw for a 3-point play with 38 seconds left for a 74-73 lead. Smith led the Eagles with 26 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.

ETSU had struggled earlier, missing some open shots over a three-minute drought as the Eagles turned a 64-62 deficit into a 71-64 lead. The Bucs kept firing and Patrick Good knocked down a 3-point shot to stop the Winthrop run with 3:26 left in the game. There was no hesitation from the sophomore guard, who finished with 14 points.

"We didn't shoot it well in the first half, but coach preaches confidence every single day," Good said. "I have the utmost confidence in myself and my teammates. It was there for the taking, and I was going to take it."

DOMINATING INSIDE

The Bucs continue to dominate their opponents inside, winning the rebounding battle by a 42-28 margin. Rodriguez had 13 rebounds to go along with nine points and five assists, and Mladen Armus had 11 rebounds, along with eight points. While the scoring in the paint was tied 36-apiece, ETSU had a 12-0 advantage in second-chance points.

The Bucs also outscored the Eagles 31-26 off turnovers and 28-14 off the bench. Reserve Kevon Tucker hit 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range and scored 16 points, all in the first half.

STRONG START

ETSU, without starting wing Bo Hodges — he was suffering from an injury — scored the first six points of the contest. However, in a game consisting of eight ties and eight lead changes, Winthrop rallied to pull ahead 18-17. The teams battled the rest of the first half with the Bucs taking a 35-30 lead into halftime as they held the Eagles to just 9 of 24 from the field.

Winthrop, which also got 14 points and eight rebounds from Josh Ferguson, came back in the second half to shoot 60 percent. The Bucs were able to overcome their high percentage by forcing 20 turnovers and having 15 more field-goal attempts for the game. Good talked about what it meant to win against another mid-major program with a strong tradition.

"Winning road games is tough, especially at this level," Good said. "With the inexperience we have, to come and get a prestigious win on their home court, it means a lot to us."

Forbes added: "If this hadn't been our third road game, we probably wouldn't have won it. I'm proud of my team. They found a way to win when things weren't going well. They stayed tough-minded and picked up the 50/50 balls. We knew our size would be an issue and we rebounded the ball well. It was a good win."

ETSU will return to its home court Monday night to face Chicago State in the first round of the Cayman Island Classic tournament at Freedom Hall.

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