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Bucs, Jones have to regroup for Lipscomb

Kelly Hodge • Feb 1, 2013 at 6:35 PM

Jarvis Jones had a point-blank shot to send the East Tennessee State basketball team to overtime Thursday night. It didn’t fall.

The senior guard still had that missed layup on his mind as he got ready for practice Friday in the Dome.

“I didn’t sleep at all,” said Jones, who otherwise had a pretty good night, with a career-high 23 points in the 70-68 loss to Northern Kentucky. “I haven’t seen it on tape yet, but I’ll probably watch it tonight. It’s just a shot I should have made.”

The loss was the Bucs’ third in four games and dropped them to 6-17, 4-6. They’re now alone in seventh in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings.

There isn’t much time to dwell on it; Lipscomb will be in town today. The Bison are just one game behind the Bucs and already own a 60-56 victory in Nashville.

It’s just been that kind of year for the Bucs, who haven’t been able to get back-to-back wins, much less mount a charge in the conference.

For Jones, it has been an unusual way to end a career.

He got a late start on the season after being declared academically ineligible and missed the first seven games. In the meanwhile, the two other senior guards, Sheldon Cooley and Marcus Dubose, were kicked off the team.

“I went into the season expecting to play with those guys,” said Jones. “Now I’m the only senior out there. I’ve tried to be a leader.”

The natural shooting guard has had to play the point for long stretches because of injuries to Petey McClain, who ended up sitting out seven games. He has played well there at times, but has a team-high 52 turnovers.

Known for his perimeter shooting, Jones’s percentages this season are down, too. He’s making 39 percent of his field-goal attempts, and just 26 percent from long range.

“He’s always been a streaky shooter,” said coach Murry Bartow, “but he’s gotta score for us, so he takes some harder shots. And that means the percentage is going to go down.

“What we need Jarvis to do is score more efficiently. Last night he took 23 shots. If he takes that many shots, I want him to score 35 points. I’d rather see him take 15 shots and score 20.”

Jones is the team’s second-leading scorer, with a 15.3 average and only one game of less than 10 all season. He has almost caught Lester Wilson (15.5), who has been the front-runner from the start.

As the season has gone along, Jones has gotten much more comfortable shooting off the dribble and trying to be a playmaker. He actually was a point guard back in his high school days at Memphis Mitchell, but was mostly a spot-up shooter coming off the bench early in his ETSU career.

“I’ve had to switch up my game,” he said. “I was kind of a role player my first couple of years here, and this year I’ve had to do a lot of different things. I worked hard in the offseason and have done pretty good, but I’m not satisfied with it. I have to do more to help the team win.”

Bartow certainly didn’t mind seeing the left-hander with the ball at the end of Thursday night’s game. The Bucs had rallied from 10 down with 10 minutes left to make it close, and they drew a late charge to earn at least a shot at overtime on the final possession.

“Ten seconds, two down, I like the ball in Jarvis’s hands,” said Bartow. “He’s won a couple of games for us like that before. And he got a great look.”

A lot of fans were thinking Jones was fouled on the play.

“There was no foul,” said Bartow. “I thought maybe there was, but it was clean.”

So now it’s on to Lipscomb, which could easily produce another last-shot situation today. The Bucs and Bison always seem to go down to the final minute.

That was the case again a month ago in Nashville. Wilson, who led the Bucs with 16 points, lined up a potential game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left but couldn’t connect.

“Every game with them seems to be like that,” said Bartow.

The Bucs didn’t help their cause by going 6 of 15 at the foul line, and Deonte Alexander had a big night for Lipscomb with 19 points.

They didn’t have much of an answer either for Stephen Hurt, the 6-10, 260-pound freshman from Murfreesboro. He collected 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Bison controlled the glass 39-28.

“He’s a big guy with good hands and good feet,” said Bartow, “and he can go out and make shots. In our league, he has tremendous size, and that makes him that much more of a commodity.”

The Bison have lost five of their last seven games, including an 83-71 setback Thursday night at Upstate.

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