JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – ETSU’s Desonta Bradford scored nine of his 12 points in the final 3:36 to help the Bucs hold off Furman 66-59 Saturday at Freedom Hall.
Lester Wilson had 20 points and seven rebounds, while A.J. Merriweather scored 18 to lead ETSU (15-10, 8-7 Southern Conference).
The Bucs’ took advantage of 14 turnovers by Furman, many at critical times down the stretch, and scored 21 points off them.
“We made some silly mistakes on both ends of the floor,” Furman coach Niko Medved said. “I thought we forced some things on offense down the stretch and bailed them out with too many fouls.”
When Furman fell behind by 15 just over two minutes into the second half, it appeared the Paladins were set for a repeat of Thursday’s nightmare. VMI hit 14-of-20 3-pointers in the second half Thursday against Furman to turn a tied game at the half into a 93-59 rout.
But behind tremendous performances by Devin Sibley and Kris Acox, the Paladins fought back Saturday. They just wasted chances to get over the hump.
Sibley’s free throw with 7:12 left trimmed the lead to three. Neither team scored for nearly the next three minutes and Furman had two turnovers during that stretch.
Sibley’s 3-pointer cut ETSU’s lead to 52-51 with 4:30 left, but when he drove to try to give the Paladins the lead he lost the ball and Bradford had an easy layup in transition.
After Acox hit a pair of free throws with 2:57 left, the lead was cut to one again at 54-53. Bradford answered with a 3-pointer though and the Paladins could never tie or take the lead.
“It’s hard to get down and come back in any game, but especially on the road,” Medved said.
Bradford hit a big 3-pointer for ETSU to put the Bucs up 57-53 then had a dunk and a pair of free throws in the final 1:20 to seal the win.
Sibley scored a game-high 29 points before fouling out to lead Furman (7-18, 4-10), which has lost five consecutive games. Acox had to leave the game twice after taking nasty thuds to the floor, but finished with 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
“Kris has a great nose for the ball and plays extremely hard,” Medved said. “He’s kind of becoming our guy who brings energy to the team.”
ETSU led for most of the first half, but Furman kept hanging close. However, the Paladins went scoreless for the final 3:02 allowing the Bucs to take their biggest lead of the half into halftime at 32-24.
That drought lingered into the second half for Furman as the Paladins didn’t score until the 17:31 mark. By then the Bucs had stretched the lead to 39-24.
“Good teams start halves, finish halves and finish games well and we really haven’t done that at times,” Medved said. “That’s something that we’ve got to do better and be a little bit smarter.”
ETSU played without SoCon leading scorer Jalen Riley, who missed the game due to a death in the family.
Furman leading scorer Stephen Croone was held to seven points on 1-of-11 shooting from the floor.
The Paladins will close out the regular season with three of its final four games at Timmons Arena, starting with The Citadel at 7 p.m. Thursday.