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Southern Conference Semifinals Recap

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments




Southern Conference Semifinals Recap

Recap by Paul Oren

No. 1N East Tennessee State 96 No. 2S Davidson 84
Tim Smith proved once again that he is a big game player and ETSU overcame both foul and injury problems to advance to the SoCon Championship game with a 96-84 victory over Davidson. Smith tied a career-high with 29 points and finished with 9 assists and 5 steals.

“Congratulations to ETSU on a fantastic season,” said Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. “Tim Smith is a guy who can control the game despite his size and he did just that tonight.”

ETSU needed more than just Smith, as the team was riddled with foul trouble (Zakee Wadood, Jerald Fields, and Smith all had 4 fouls) and starting guard James Anthony only logged 7 minutes because of a shoulder injury. Freshman Travis Strong picked up the slack with 17 points, including five three-pointers.

“I’m thankful for Travis Strong,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow. “We tell the guys to be ready, to stay ready, because you never know when your time will come. Travis deserved what happened.”

The Buccaneers took a 14-point lead into the locker room and moved it up to 18 early in the second half. The Wildcats then made things interesting when bench player Ian Johnson scored nine straight points to cut the lead down to 73-68, he then scored 8 of his team’s next 9 points, but it was not enough as ETSU had too many weapons down the stretch. Johnson finished with a season-high 21 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Wildcats.

“It’s a six point game and we’re on our heels,” said Bartow. “Thankfully, we held our composure. We stepped up, made big stops and got the score back to 10.”

No. 2N Tennessee Chattanooga 90 No. 1S Georgia Southern 87 (OT)
You might as well call Chattanooga the “Comeback Kids.” One night after rallying from 14 down to beat College of Charleston, the Mocs found themselves down 27-8 early on against Georgia Southern, yet they were able to come back and send the game in overtime. Ashley Champion scored 8 of his 20 points in the extra session to push his team to victory and a rematch with ETSU in the SoCon Championship game.

The early 19-point Eagles lead was a product of long-range shooting. Elton Nesbitt nailed three three-pointers in the opening 7 minutes and had 16 first half points, but foul trouble kept him on the bench at key points in the first half.

“So many things went on in this game,” said Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price. “We missed 16 or 17 free-throw attempts and you can’t do that in a tournament game. When we made shots early, we didn’t stop, but we knew that that pace would not keep up for the entire game.”

“I’m proud of out effort,” said Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo. “We were down by 19 at one point. We didn’t panic. We’ve been there before.”

Chattanooga got help from its usual cast of characters with Champion strapping the team on his back in overtime, yet in regulation, it was Chris Brown who did most of the damage. Brown finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, including 8 straight points late in the second half that kept UTC in the game.

“We had key shots by Chris Brown,” Lebo added. “Our bench play was terrific.”

ETSU and UTC will meet at 1:00 EST on ESPN2 in what will be the first conference tournament of the 2003-2004 season to hold their championship game.

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