Trailing by seven points with five minutes left in regulation, the ETSU men’s basketball team made the plays it needed down the stretch to drop Samford 79-77 Wednesday night in a tough Southern Conference battle at Freedom Hall.
The Buccaneers – who improved to 21-6 overall, 11-3 in SoCon play – needed a critical offensive rebound and put back from senior forward Tevin Glass, a game-winning basket with 10 seconds left from senior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea , and a final defensive stop from senior guard T.J. Cromer all in the final minute to secure the win. Glass, who scored 12 of the Bucs’ first 15 points in the contest, finished with a career high and team high 16 points, while Cromer matched that figure with 16 himself and Mosquera-Perea netted 10 to lead the ETSU offense.
PHOTOS BY COLLIN BROOKS
“Give Samford a lot of credit, they came in here and played an outstanding game,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes, whose team won its sixth straight inside Freedom Hall. “Down the stretch, I just told our guys that we are the team playing for a championship and we needed to play like it. We did what we needed to do.”
Despite playing without star post player Wyatt Walker, the Bulldogs (15-12, 6-8) certainly performed well. Shooting 59 percent from the field in the first half and finishing at 50 percent from the floor in the game, the Bulldogs got double-figure scoring from three players, including a game high 21 points from junior guard Demetrius Denzel-Dyson and 19 from junior guard Alex Thompson.
Samford’s strong effort resulted in a 70-63 lead with 4:49 left in the game, and after a turnover by the Bucs, the Bulldogs were racing to the other end of the floor for a chance to go up nine and put the game away. Instead, the game turned at that point, as the Samford layup attempt rimmed out and the Bucs drove the other way for a traditional 3-point play from junior guard Devontavius Payne.
Cromer then followed with a steal and layup to get the Bucs to within two at 70-68, and he followed that a deep 3-pointer a minute later as the shot clock expired to make it 72-71 in favor of Samford. The
Bulldogs remained up 75-73 when ETSU senior A.J. Merriweather made one of two free throws, but Glass grabbed the miss and put it back to give the Bucs the lead at 76-75.
Samford once again took the advantage at 77-76 before Mosquera-Perea hit the go-ahead shot to make it 78-77. At that point, Samford had the ball with 10 seconds remaining, but Cromer’s strong defense on Bulldogs’ guard Josh Sharkey forced a turnover and the Bucs escaped with the win.
The first half was an impressive offensive display by both teams, as Bucs shot 54 percent from the field only to be bested by Samford’s 59 percent clip. ETSU led for over 13 minutes of the first half and held its largest lead of the first half at 28-20 following a 3-pointer from Payne with 9:06 left before the break.
Unfortunately for ETSU, Samford regrouped at that point and outscored the Bucs 19-10 the rest of the way to take a 39-38 lead into the intermission. In the opening 20 minutes, the Bucs got a team high 12 points from Glass, while Denzel-Dyson led all scorers with 14 points.
ETSU finished the game with a 31-27 rebounding advantage, outscoring Samford 38-24 in the paint, 25-21 off turnovers, 16-5 on second-chance points, and 14-6 on fast break points. However, the Bulldogs made two more 3-pointers than the Bucs and went 23-of-28 from the foul line compared to a 19-of-25 clip for the Bucs.