LEXINGTON, Va. (Feb. 2, 2017) – An impressive second half offensively was the difference for the ETSU men’s basketball team on the road Thursday night inside VMI’s Cameron Hall.
Shooting 69 percent from the field and 73 percent from 3-point range in the second half, the Buccaneers scored 54 points after the intermission and rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to drop the Keydets 81-71 in Southern Conference play. With the win, the first-place Bucs improved to 18-5 overall, 8-2 in SoCon play, while VMI dropped to 5-16, 2-8.
After combining to score just eight points in the first half, senior guard T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.) and junior guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt) joined up to score 32 in the second half, with Cromer posting a game-high 24 and Bradford with 16 for the game. Meanwhile, seniors A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) and Tevin Glass (Norcross, Ga.) also helped power the win by providing 13 and 10, respectively.
“You have to give VMI credit for following their game plan early on,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes, whose team had entered the game going 2-5 this season when trailing at halftime. “We got off to a horrible start and at halftime I had to peel the paint of the walls in the locker room. We came back in the second half and pulled off a big road win. The key was really T.J. and Desonta making some shots and we finally got some defensive stops. Now we’ll go home, get some rest and get ready for Wofford on Monday.”
For the game, the Bucs shot 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range, while out-rebounding the Keydets 35-34. However, things didn’t start that way in the first half.
While the Bucs shot a respectable 44 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes of play, they were just 1-of-9 from 3-point range and 2-of-5 at the foul line. Making matters worse, VMI out-rebounded ETSU 23-15 and used several of those boards to get second chance points, building a 34-27 lead at the break.
After the intermission, the Bucs clearly listened to Forbes’ halftime speech, racing out with a 13-3 offensive run to open the second half and taking their first lead of the game at 40-37 with just under 16 minutes left in regulation. Unfortunately for the Bucs, after increasing their lead to 46-40, VMI regained some momentum and took the lead back at 47-46.
There were five lead changes and a pair of ties over the next five minutes of game play before ETSU went on a 15-4 run, which was highlighted by a pair of threes from Cromer and single buckets from beyond the arc by Bradford and Merriweather. When the smoke cleared from that run, the Bucs led 69-59 and never looked back.
For VMI, the SoCon’s leading scorer QJ Peterson finished with a team-high 22, while three other Keydets finished in double figures. As a team, VMI shot just 35 percent from the field for the game.
The Bucs will be back on the road in SoCon play Monday night, when they travel to face Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. Tip is set for 7 p.m.