no avatar

Atlantic Sun-leading Bucs brace for high-octane Camels' best shot

KELLY HODGE • Feb 4, 2007 at 11:45 AM

JOHNSON CITY - The defensive goal is to hold opponents to less than 70 points, and more often than not the East Tennessee State men's basketball team is getting it done.

The Bucs have built a nine-game winning streak on defense, surrendering 70 or more only three times during the run. They may, however, have to adjust their thinking tonight when Campbell visits Memorial Center.

"It'll be a whole different type of game," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said Friday night after a 63-61 grinder against Gardner-Webb. "Campbell is a high-octane team that wants to go up and down. They'll try to beat us 110-100."

The Camels lead the Atlantic Sun Conference in scoring offense at 79.5 ppg. That's about seven points a game more than the three closest teams, including ETSU.

But the Bucs (17-7, 11-1) have proven they can win the shootout. They dusted the Camels 100-76 at Buies Creek on Jan. 9, shooting 68 percent in the second half on the way to a season high for points.

Courtney Pigram hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead five ETSU players in double figures. Brad Nuckles had 22 and 11 rebounds.

It hasn't been that easy for the Bucs lately, especially against Gardner-Webb. They had to rally from nine down in the last four minutes, finishing the game on a 13-2 run.

Nuckles, who was working on six straight double-doubles, managed just a single point and three rebounds. But the Bucs won to maintain their two-game lead in the A-Sun.

"There's just something about this team, this group of guys," said freshman point guard Dequan Twilley. "We're special."

In a typical performance, Twilley was quiet but steady for most of the way, then showed up big time at the end. He scored seven straight for the Bucs during the decisive run.

Just as it had earlier this season, ETSU got Gardner-Webb's best shot. The Bulldogs missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in Boiling Springs, and they could have won this time if Takayo Siddle had connected from long range at the horn.

Tight games have become the norm for the Bucs.

"Down the stretch we've got a big X on our backs," Twilley said. "We're leading the league and we're going to get everybody's best shot."

They'll have to weather a whole bunch of shots tonight.

Campbell (10-12, 5-7) can score on anybody, though lately the offense hasn't flowed so easily. It lost 64-55 at Gardner-Webb and then 74-64 at Kennesaw State to drop to sixth place in the standings. In fact, the Camels have scored 64 points or less in four of their past five games.

All that aside, they are a dangerous team.

"They have some of the best guards in the league," Bartow said, "and a great freshman in (Jonathan) Rodriguez."

Rodriguez, a 6-foot-6 forward from Miami, leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points a game. Senior guard Eric Smith (12 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, but five others average more than 6.5 ppg.

The Camels have launched 507 3-pointers this season and cashed in at a 34 percent clip.

Tipoff tonight at Memorial Center is set for 7 o'clock.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos