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Bucs romp over Ospreys, stay undefeated in A-Sun

NET News Service • Jan 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY — North Florida brought one of the worst basketball resumes in the country to Memorial Center Monday night.

The Ospreys didn’t look any better on their way out of town.

East Tennessee State scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back in an 88-57 romp that kept it firmly atop the Atlantic Sun Conference standings.

Courtney Pigram, coming off a career high Saturday against Jacksonville, still had something left in the tank, scoring 24 points to lead the Buccaneers (10-4, 4-0) . But the outmanned Ospreys (2-12, 0-4) — No. 343 out of 347 in the latest Sagarin ratings — made ETSU’s whole roster look pretty good.

“Obviously we did what we had to do ... this is one of those games on paper that we’re supposed to win,” said Bucs coach Murry Bartow. “I think we’re getting a feel of the big picture, what we’re trying to get done.”

The Bucs, who won for the seventh time in eight games, are the only unbeaten team in the league.

Sophomore guard Micah Williams had his best scoring game yet at ETSU, with 15 points. Williams hit three 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds, again showing glimpses of his potential at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He had been averaging a little more than four points and two rebounds per game.

“Coach has been waiting on me to produce,” Williams said. “Hopefully I showed him tonight that I can do it.”

Bartow didn’t downplay Williams’ emergence, even against defenses that gave him plenty of good looks from the perimeter.

“It’s huge that Micah got going,” Bartow said. “He’s a big piece of the puzzle from a shooting standpoint.”

The Bucs also got 13 points from Kevin Tiggs and 12 points and six rebounds from Seth Coy. Greg Hamlin tied a school record with six blocked shots and scored nine points — his best output in his two seasons at ETSU.

“I was always taught to contest every shot,” said Hamlin, a 6-7 senior who has 20 blocks this season. “We’re playing pretty intense defense. We’re playing hard to the finish.”

The Bucs’ start made the finish easy against a team that, talent-wise, resembles the Division II outfit North Florida was before joining the A-Sun with ETSU four years ago. There would certainly be none of the drama that infused the Jacksonville game, an 84-82 victory that wasn’t secured until the final seconds.

Pigram, the senior guard, erupted for 39 points in that one. His scoring wouldn’t be critical against the Dolphins’ crosstown neighbor, but Pigram still turned in an efficient performance with 9-of-14 shooting that included another five 3-pointers.

In the process, he supplanted Tiggs (20.4 ppg) as the league’s leading scorer at 20.7 ppg.

ETSU used runs of 10, eight and 16 points to take a whopping 43-17 lead at halftime. Cortez Riley and Eni Cuka, North Florida’s top scorers, had two points between them. Kyle Groothuis, with 11 points, was the only Osprey to finish in double figures.

From there, it was just a matter of how bad the final margin would be as Bartow substituted liberally. Of course, he had only nine players in uniform.

“We haven’t developed the bench to the extent we need to,” Bartow said. “We still don’t have Jocolby (Davis), we still don’t have Tommy (Hubbard).”

Hubbard missed another game with a nagging toe injury, while Davis is still waiting for his first action of the season. The senior guard will have his injured wrist examined by a doctor today.

The Bucs shot 51 percent against the Ospreys — they were 11-of-25 from 3-point range — and outrebounded them 45-31. They also were credited with assists on half their 34 field goals, though that stat didn’t particularly impress Bartow.

“A lot of those were in transition. We’re really good in transition,” he said. “We have to work on our halfcourt execution.”

The Bucs will hit the road to Florida this weekend. They play at Stetson on Saturday and at Florida Gulf Coast on Monday night.

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