With six minutes left in the game against Kansas, the Bucs rallied to trail by five points before falling 75-63 to the Jayhawks in an opening-round Maui Invitational contest at Allen Fieldhouse.
Bo Hodges scored a game-high 22 points for the Bucs.
“I’m not into moral victories, but I’m proud of our team and how we fought,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “I’ve seen some teams come in here and just get blasted after the situation we got in early, but to our credit, we fought back.”
The Bucs (3-1) dropped into a big hole following a 23-5 run by the Jayhawks (3-1).
Hodges added seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals to his season-high output.
“Not everybody gets a chance to come here and play at Kansas,” he said. “The environment was crazy, but we were like, ‘Don’t let the crowd, the scoreboard or the other team get us spread apart.’ We just had to stay together and fight back slowly.
“We got it there, but we didn’t get the stops we needed at the end. We felt like it was there for us to take.”
Lucas N’Guessan finished with 11 points and seven rebounds for ETSU. Davien Williamson scored 10 points and Jeromy Rodriguez grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Jayhawks clamped down on the defensive end early, racing out to a 27-10 lead.
ETSU cut its deficit to 43-31 at the half on Hodges’ layup at the buzzer. The Bucs kept pressing in the second half, pulling within six on two separate occasions.
“The first punch put us on the canvas,” Forbes said. “We dropped our hands early, but to our kids’ credit we kept fighting. The second half, we missed some wide-open shots that would have really put some pressure on them.
“I like our team, the way we scrapped, and I think our team is going to get better.”
Kansas took advantage of its size inside. Udoka Azubuike, its 7-foot center, ended the night with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
Guards Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett ended up with 19 and 13 points, respectively, for Kansas.
The Jayhawks outscored the
Bucs 54-24 in the paint.
Challenged near the end, the Jayhawks made five of their last seven field goals. They shot 30-for-54 (55.6%) from the field, although they hit just 1 of 14 from 3-point range.
Despite the size differential, the Bucs held a 33-32 rebounding advantage, 11-5 on the offensive end.
ETSU returns home to play Delaware State on Saturday at 2 p.m. as part of the Mainland portion of the Maui Invitational.