LEXINGTON, Va. (Feb. 4, 2016) – Trailing VMI by 11 points late in the first half, ETSU men’s basketball head coach Steve Forbes pressed the issue.
Deploying the Buccaneers’ full-court defense, Forbes’ team responded with multiple stops and manufactured a 15-2 offensive run to take a two-point lead at the break, carrying that momentum into the second half and dropping the Keydets 71-60 Thursday evening in Southern Conference action at Cameron Hall.
With the win, ETSU improved to 14-9 overall, 7-3 in SoCon play, while VMI dropped to 6-15, 1-9.
“That was the difference in the game,” said Forbes when asked about the defensive change that ignited the turnaround. “We started the game horrific on offense and horrific on defense, and at this point of the year we can’t have that. We have to be better than that. Now, to their credit they kept battling and they’ve done that all year, so we were able to recover enough to win.”
Senior guard Ge’Lawn Guyn (Lexington, Ky.) finished with a game-high 20 points for the Bucs, while sophomore guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) netted 14 to lead the Bucs’ offensive attack. In addition, junior guard T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) and senior guard Deuce Bello (Greensboro, N.C.) pitched in 11 and 10 points, respectively, while junior post Isaac Banks (New Orleans, La.) had 11 rebounds and nine points.
It was definitely an ugly first half for the Bucs, who committed 12 turnovers and trailed for all but .9 seconds of the opening 20 minutes of play. However, after falling behind by 11 points at 26-15 with 5:35 left before the break, Forbes made the defensive change that reversed the fortunes of the game.
The Bucs ultimately took the lead when Guyn completed a traditional three-point play to make it 30-28 with .9 seconds left on the clock. Before the intermission, the Bucs out-rebounded the Keydets 23-16 and held a 12-8 advantage in points in the paint, while Guyn led the way individually with a game-high 15 points.
After the break, the Bucs found their outside shooting touch and hit six 3-pointers in the half, which helped the team build a 15-point lead at 65-50 with 4:16 left in the contest. While VMI managed to go on a 10-2 run to make it 67-60 with a minute left in regulation, Bradford hit four straight free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
For VMI, both Q.J. Peterson and Julian Elby finished with 18 points apiece.
The Bucs finished the game with a 41-31 rebounding advantage and outscored the Keydets 29-5 in points off the bench. After committing 12 turnovers in the opening period, ETSU had just three in the second half.
The Bucs will be back in action on Saturday, playing the final game of this current four-game road swing when they face UNC Greensboro at 5 p.m. inside Fleming Gym.