JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. --- A 24-2 run late in the first half by ETSU sparked the Bucs to an 84-65 victory over Tusculum in men's basketball action Thursday night at Freedom Hall.
Five players scored in double figures for the Bucs (9-4), led by Desonta Bradford and David Burrell with 18 points apiece. Burrell, who shot 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line, also had 10 rebounds and four assists for the Bucs. Mladen Armus just missed a double-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for ETSU.
Donovan Donaldson paced Tusculum with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, with Zailan Peeler adding 10 points off the bench for the Pioneers, who were playing the game as an exhibition. Both teams shot just under 44 percent from the field in the game, but the Buccaneers had 16 more shot attempts thanks to 20 offensive rebounds, which ETSU turned into 23 points.
Kanayo Obi-Rapu hit three three-pointers in the first half and finished with 13 points off the bench for ETSU, while Peter Jurkin also reached double figures for the Bucs with 11 points and six rebounds. As a team, ETSU shot 31-for-71 from the field and went 15-for-23 from the foul line, while outscoring the Pioneers in the paint by a 48-20 margin.
Tusculum was effective from long range against ETSU, sinking 10 three-pointers in 25 attempts (40 percent) including 6-for-12 in the second half. Donaldson was 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and Ronnie Baylark sank 2-for-3 from three-point range as part of an eight-point performance.
Dashauntè Smith scored seven points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Pioneers, who received points from 11 of the 12 players to see action in the game. Tobe Okafor came off the bench to register six blocked shots in 14 minutes of playing time for Tusculum, while contributing two points and four rebounds.
A Baylark jumper gave the Pioneers the first points of the game, followed by a putback from Smith for a 4-0 Tusculum lead. The Pioneers took their largest lead at 11-6 on a layup by Peyton Woods with 16:13 left in the opening half, and did not trail in the game until a basket by Jurkin put the Bucs ahead 14-13 with 12:24 to play in the half.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Hunter Parrish and Woods gave the Pioneers their final lead of the game at 19-16 with 10:37 to play in the first half, but a Bradford three-pointer tied the game at 19-19 with 9:41 left. A tip-in by Jurkin and a jumper from Obi-Rapu gave ETSU its largest lead to that point at 23-19, but Baylark drilled a three-pointer to leave the Pioneers down 23-22 with 8:30 left in the half.
From there, it was all ETSU as a three-pointer from Obi-Rapu and a fast-break dunk from Burrell sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Bucs a 33-22 lead with 6:32 remaining in the half. Peeler snapped the run with a jumper with 5:58 remaining, only to see ETSU respond with 14 unanswered points that included a steal and dunk by Jalan McCloud and a three-pointer by Bradford.
However, the Tusculum defense clamped down from there as ETSU missed its final five shots from the field over the last two minutes of the half, while baskets from Smith and Elon Smallwood left the Pioneers facing a 47-28 deficit at intermission.
Bradford led all players with 13 points in the half as ETSU shot 51.3 percent (20-for-39) from the field and outrebounded Tusculum 25-14. Woods was the leading scorer for Tusculum in the opening half with seven points in 11 minutes off the bench as the Pioneers shot 12-for-29 (41.4 percent) as a team.
ETSU stretched its lead to 53-28 on two foul shots by Burrell with 18:08 remaining, only to see the Pioneers cut the margin to 55-36 on a layup by Okafor with 15:15 to go. Back-to-back steals and dunks from Jermaine Long and Burrell helped the Bucs restore their 25-point lead at 61-36, but the Pioneers rattled off eight points in a row during a run that included back-to-back three-pointers from Donaldson and three blocked shots from Okafor in a span of 27 seconds.
With the lead down to 61-44, the Bucs responded with 13 consecutive points that included eight points on one possession thanks to a combination of made field goals, missed free throws and offensive rebounds. Down 74-44 with 9:05 remaining, the Pioneers closed the game by outscoring the Bucs 21-10 the rest of the game. Each team scored 37 points in the second half, with ETSU shooting 11-for-32 (34.4 percent) from the field and the Pioneers 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) from the floor in the half.
Smallwood finished with five points for the Pioneers, as did Brandon Mitchell and Dustin Day. Mitchell had four rebounds, while Caleb Hodnett had five boards to go along with two points and three assists in 11 minutes off the bench. The Pioneer bench outscored the Buc reserves by a 29-26 margin in the game.
McCloud played 24 minutes for ETSU and just missed double figures, finishing with nine points, five assists and five steals along with zero turnovers. As a team, the Bucs turned the ball over just eight times while forcing the Pioneers into 16 turnovers in the game. ETSU also had a 21-13 edge in fast-break points and led in points off turnovers by a 21-11 margin.
Tusculum will resume its regular-season schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 3 when the Pioneers take a 3-9 overall record and a 1-4 South Atlantic Conference mark across the mountain to play Mars Hill in the first of two SAC road games next week. Game time is at 8 p.m.