E. Tennessee St. 89, Citadel 55
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ East Tennessee State, seeking a fourth straight Southern Conference championship, got 16 points from Rodney English and used its speed and defense Friday to roll past The Citadel 89-55.
The top-seeded Buccaneers (21-6) set the pace early in the first-round tournament game, forcing four Bulldog turnovers in the first three minutes with a pressuring man-to-man defense, grabbing an 8-0 lead.
The margin reached 38 points midway in the second half as East Tennessee State rested most of its starters for the game’s final 10 minutes.
The Bucs, who defeated the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (10-18) for the ninth straight time, gradually built their eight-point lead to 30-13 with 8:27 left before halftime, mostly on transition baskets.
Calvin Talford’s second of three opening half 3-pointers increased the lead to 20 points less than two minutes later.
The Citadel, which has lost seven straight first round tournament games, got 15 of its first 19 points from Andre Harris, but turned the ball over 10 times in the period and shot only 43 percent compared to the Bucs’ 58.3 percent.
The Bucs missed six straight shots during a two-minute stretch as The Citadel cut the lead to 15 with 3:50 left on an Augustus McDowell layup.
However, East Tennessee State closed the half strong, getting four points from Greg Dennis, a Talford 3-pointer and a slam dunk by English seven seconds before halftime for a 47-26 lead.
The Bulldogs closed the gap to 17 points early in the second half, but the Bucs went on a 21-0 run over a seven-minute stretch to put the contest away.
East Tennessee State sank four 3-pointers during the run, while The Citadel missed 12 straight shots and turned the ball over five times.
English hit his first seven shots, six of which were dunks to lead the Bucs in scoring. Talford added 13 points, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, while Dennis scored all 12 of his points in the first half.
Harris was scoreless in the second half and finished with 15 to lead The Citadel.