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ETSU left to lament missed opportunities

By Jeff Birchfield • Mar 6, 2018 at 12:56 AM

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The East Tennessee State men’s basketball team was thinking about missed opportunities after losing 62-47 to UNC Greensboro in Monday night’s Southern Conference championship game at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The Bucs (25-9) struggled mightily on the offensive end, enduring a 6:14 scoreless streak in the second half when the Spartans went on a 10-0 run.

It was an especially tough night for Southern Conference player of the year Desonta Bradford, who hit just 1 of 9 shots from the field. He had to sit out nearly three minutes late in the game after picking up a fourth foul. He fouled out with eight points and 1:15 to play.

Other ETSU players also had a tough time hitting the mark.

Bo Hodges shot 1-for-8, Devontavious Payne 1-for-5 and Jermaine Long 1-for-3. As a team, ETSU hit just 15 of 49 attempts from the field and finished 3-for-16 from 3-point range.

ETSU played even through the first half but failed to convert on many shots from close range.

“When we got to the basket, we couldn’t finish,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “A lot of the credit goes to Greensboro defensively, how they defend in that three-quarter pressure. That takes you out of the flow on offense.”

The Bucs will have to wait until late Sunday night to see if they are selected for an unlikely NIT bid. ETSU doesn’t stack up well in the RPI, still haunted by blowing a 22-point lead in a loss at No. 3-ranked Xavier in December, and ending the regular-season on a three-game home losing streak.

After posting the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games on Feb. 12, they ended the season by losing five of their last eight games.

That’s what made Monday night more difficult to swallow. The Bucs rolled through a large part of the regular season, which included a 68-58 win in the first meeting with UNC Greensboro.

Despite the disappointment, Forbes was able to reflect on the season as a whole.

“Think about where we came from the beginning of the year, we lose by 20 points at Northern Kentucky,” Forbes said. “We go on the road at Xavier and get beat after leading by 22. We win 16 games in a row. You can’t put a price tag on something like that. To lose three in a row at home is hard, but we came back here and played for a championship. They battled and they have nothing to hang their heads about.”

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