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Stifling defense propels Bucs past Cowboys

From staff reports • Dec 21, 2018 at 10:05 PM

EL PASO, Texas — The East Tennessee State men's basketball team put forth a stunning defensive effort on Friday to defeat Wyoming 76-53 in the first round of the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.

The Bucs held the Cowboys to 1-of-26 shooting (3.8 percent) from the field while racing out to a 32-point halftime lead at the Don Haskins Center.

This was just the second time since the shot clock was introduced in 1986 that a team managed just one field goal in a half. The other time was Jan. 8, 2008, when Kansas State held Savannah State to one field goal and four second-half points in an 85-25 rout.

"Twice in my career at Texas A&M, we held teams to two field goals in a half," ETSU coach Steve Forbes said on the radio broadcast. "It was really good defense, a really good way of following the scouting report. I thought we were really connected."

ETSU (9-4) plays the winner of the late game between Norfolk State and host UTEP in Saturday's championship game at 9 p.m.

Jeromy Rodriguez led the balanced Bucs with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Patrick Good also scored 12 points, Bo Hodges added 11  and Mladen Armus finished with 11 points and five assists. Daivien Williamson had a solid effort of eight points, six rebounds and five assists.

Rodriguez’s jumper with 7:12 left in the first half put the Bucs up 30-4 and they led 43-11 at halftime. Wyoming's only field goal came on a 3-point basket.

The Cowboys (3-8) came out firing after the break, opening the second half on a 13-2 run, but the deficit was too overwhelming. Still, they got within 14 points with 7:58 left before ETSU put away the game.

The Bucs dominated all phases of the game, earning a 30-14 rebounding advantage in the first half and 48-34 for the game. The Bucs outscored Wyoming 52-12 in the paint and had 27 points off turnovers.

"We pounded the ball in there," Forbes said. "Jeromy came in there and got the 12 points and 14 rebounds. I knew Wyoming was down a little, but they have decent size. I'm glad how we were able to score in there.

"We played hard and played together. That's been a trademark of our team since we've been at ETSU. We've just got to play smarter. We had 20 turnovers and most of them were from playing too fast."

ETSU held Wyoming star guard Justin James to just 3-of-21 shooting and eight points, and he committed 10 turnovers. Hunter Thompson, who heated up in the second half and hit 8 of 9 shots from the field, led the Cowboys with 25 points.

"I wasn't happy with some of the shots Thompson got in the second half, but we knew they were going to show some pride," Forbes said. "We did a great job on the guy who is averaging 24 points per game. We just have to continue to improve, continue to get better. We have a chance to win 10 non-league wins, play a big game tomorrow night and take home a trophy."

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