Short-handed Bucs rally but fall to Green Bay in opening round of CIT

Without the services of three starters and head coach Steve Forbes, the ETSU men’s basketball team erased an 18-point deficit; however, the Buccaneers couldn’t hold on as Green Bay closed the game on a 21-4 run to defeat the Blue and Gold 102-94 in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on Wednesday night inside Freedom Hall.

With starters Jeromy Rodriguez (Santiago, Dominican Republic), Mladen Armus (Belgrade, Serbia) and Patrick Good (Johnson City, Tenn.) all out with injuries, the Bucs still saw five players score in double figures, while junior Kevon Tucker (Dacula, Ga.) came off the bench to net a career-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-7 from beyond the arc).

Freshman guard Daivien Williamson (Winston-Salem, N.C.) scored a team-high 19 points, junior guards Isaiah Tisdale (Lexington, Ky.) and Tray Boyd III (Memphis, Tenn.) combined for 30 points and sophomore guard Bo Hodges (Nashville, Tenn.) tallied 12 points and five rebounds. Tisdale finished with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds, while Boyd ended with 14 points, four assists, three rebounds and two blocks. Williamson also dished out a career-high seven assists and was 4-of-4 at the free throw line. Williamson and Tisdale combined for 13 of the Bucs’ 21 assists on the night.

As a team, the Blue and Gold shot 50 percent from the field (33-66), made 13 three-pointers and went 15-of-18 at the free throw line. However, the Bucs saw Green Bay shoot 72 percent (23-32) in the first half en route to finishing with a 58 percent clip (35-60). After going 9-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Phoenix were held to 2-of-10 in the final 20 minutes, but Green Bay turned 13 Buccaneer turnovers into 20 points and scored 19 points in transition. The Phoenix also outrebounded ETSU by one, 32-31, and were plus-four in the paint, 40-36.

With the loss, the Bucs – who were without Coach Forbes as his father passed away on Wednesday – ended their season at 24-10, while Green Bay advanced to the second round of the tournament after improving to 18-16. The 24 wins are tied for the seventh-most in program history, while ETSU made its 17th postseason appearance in program history, including Forbes taking the Blue and Gold to three trips in his first four seasons at the helm.

The Phoenix jumped out to a 20-5 run to start the first four and a half minutes and eventually built an 18-point lead when a three-pointer by PJ Pipes made it 32-14 with 11:31 remaining in the contest. From there, the lead remained around double figures until ETSU pulled within six with 1:23 left before the break, but Green Bay scored the final four points to take a 59-49 lead into the locker room.

With things not going in favor of the Blue and Gold over the first 20 minutes – and after the Buccaneer faithful saw ETSU cut its deficit to five (63-58) to start the first two-plus minutes of the second half – the Phoenix again extended their lead to double figures as they led 69-58 at the 15:44 mark.

However, with their backs against the wall, the Bucs stepped up and mounted a 23-8 run over the next seven-plus minutes to go ahead, 81-77, when Williamson hit Tisdale in transition for a lay-up at the 7:51 mark. Just a minute prior, ETSU took its first lead of the game when Boyd assisted on a Tisdale layup.

The Bucs eventually extended their lead to nine following a Tisdale triple to make it 90-81 with 6:24 remaining; unfortunately, ETSU couldn’t keep its foot on the gas.

The Phoenix finished the final six minutes and thirteen seconds on their 21-4 run to capture the Hugh Durham Classic trophy and the eight-point win.

ETSU last held the lead at 92-91 with 3:26 remaining, but Green Bay answered with a three-pointer on its next trip down the floor and the Bucs were only able to close the gap to two at 96-94 with 1:48 remaining before the Phoenix scored the final six points of the contest.

Sandy Cohen III, a first team all-Horizon League player, was named the Hugh Durham Classic MVP after finishing with a game-high 29 points, six assists and four rebounds. All five of Green Bay’s starters scored in double figures with Josh McNair adding 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, JayQuan McCloud netted 19 points, ShanQuan Hemphill added 15 and Cody Schwartz totaled 11.

Story and photo courtesy of ETSU Athletics