LEXINGTON, N.C. (Nov. 17, 2017) – A fantastic start did not ultimately end in a great finish for the ETSU men’s basketball team Friday night against No. 7 Kentucky.
Taking a 10-point lead early in the game against the perennial national powerhouse, the Buccaneers later suffered through nearly an eight minute scoring drought that spanned both halves, as the Southeastern Conference’s Wildcats took advantage of those offensive struggles to build a large lead and win 78-61 inside historic Rupp Arena.
With the loss, ETSU ends its season-opening, three-game road swing with a 1-2 overall record, while Kentucky improved to 3-1 on the young season.
“I thought we got a lot of good looks and just had to make some more shots,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes. “We started well and I’m proud of our guys because we competed. I’m not happy we lost, but I saw some good things out there tonight against a really talented team.”
Bright spots for the Bucs included a career high 17 points from senior post Peter Jurkin (Juba, South Sudan) and 11 from senior forward David Burrell (Milwaukee). Jurkin was particularly impressive, going 7-of-8 from the field, 1-of-1 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 at the foul line, while finishing with seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Kentucky had four freshman players reach double figures, with guard Quade Green scoring a game high 21 points and forward Kevin Knox posting 17.
In addition, forward PJ Washington netted 12 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 10.
The first half got off to a great start for the Bucs, as ETSU outscored the Wildcats 18-8 over the first nine minutes of the game, ultimately forcing a timeout by Kentucky head coach John Calipari in hopes of stopping the Bucs’ momentum. During that opening run, senior guard Devontavius Payne (Carbondale, Ill.) had a pair of 3-pointers, while Burrell added one and Jurkin hit the first triple of his career.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Calipari’s timeout seemed to work for Kentucky, which went on a 12-5 run to get back to within three at 23-20 with just over eight minutes left in the half. While the Bucs still led 25-20 with 7:32 left, Kentucky finished with another flurry, outscoring the Bucs 16-5 to close out the half and lead 36-30 at the break.
Before the break, the Bucs were even on the boards (16-16) and had nine assists on 12 made free throws. ETSU also led for 14:26 of the opening half. Burrell led the Bucs with nine points in the first half, while Green led the ‘Cats with 12.
Kentucky’s offensive run continued into the second half, as the Wildcats outscored the Bucs 9-0 to open the half and led 45-30 with 16 minutes left in regulation. The lead grew to as much as 16, as the ’Cats went 7-of-11 from the field to open the half, compared to a 3-of-17 clip for the Bucs.
ETSU did manage to cut it to 10 at 52-42 before Kentucky again pulled away and put the game away.
For the game, ETSU was out-rebounded 40-37 and committed 16 turnovers, shooting 32 percent from the floor and 26 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Kentucky shot an impressive 57 percent from the floor and 56 percent for 3-point range, outscoring the Bucs 38-22 in the paint and 14-2 on fast break points. The Bucs did force the Wildcats into 22 turnovers.