Record-setting defense lifts Bucs over Cowboys

Johnson City Press • Updated Dec 22, 2018 at 2:45 PM

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

The Bucs held the Cowboys to 1-of-26 shooting (just 3.8 percent) from the field while racing out to a 32-point halftime lead. From there, ETSU took a 76-53 win at the Don Haskins Center.

It was just the second time since the shot clock was introduced in 1986 that a team had been held to 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) will play the winner of a late game between Norfolk State and host Texas El-Paso in Saturday's championship game scheduled for 9 p.m.

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

ETSU sprinted to a 30-4 lead on a jumper by Rodriguez with 7:12 left in the first half. They led 43-11 at halftime with Wyoming's only field goal coming on a 3-point basket.

While the Cowboys (3-8) came out firing after the break, opening the second half on a 13-2 run, their deficit proved too much to make up. Still, they gave it a strong effort, cutting the lead to 14 points with 7:58 left before ETSU put the game away.

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 they 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's star guard Justin James to just 3-of-21 shooting and eight points. He also committed 10 turnovers. Hunter Thompson, who heated up in the second half and finished 8 of 9 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 games, play a big game tomorrow night and take home a trophy."

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