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Bucs hope defense can catch up to offense

Kelly Hodge • Nov 1, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Murry Bartow didn’t see much defense in East Tennessee State’s first basketball exhibition of the preseason Tuesday night. On the other hand, the coach saw plenty of scoring potential in the 118-83 victory over Milligan College.“After watching the tape, we did some really good things,” Bartow said Friday. “It’s not easy to score 118. Last year we really, really, really struggled to put the ball in the basket, no matter who we played.”The Bucs will be back on the court today against Mars Hill, an NCAA Division II team that should be a bit more athletic than the NAIA Buffs. They probably can’t count on making 15 3-pointers again, or Rashawn Rembert going off for 33 points, but Bartow thinks the offense will have more of a flow most nights.The Bucs averaged just 62.3 points a game last season on 40 percent shooting.“We’re trying to play faster this year,” said Bartow. “Talent-wise, we have more guys who can score. We have two new assistant coaches (Bob Bolen and Thomas Carr) who have brought some new ideas offensively. We just have to keep building on that.”It remains to be seen who will carry the scoring load for this team.Rembert, the junior guard, certainly looked the part Tuesday night when he made nine 3-pointers and almost doubled his previous scoring high at ETSU.Freshman wing A.J. Merriweather created a buzz with his 17-point, seven-rebound, five-steal stat line in just 17 minutes. Junior-college transfer Jalen Riley showed a pure shooting stroke while scoring 16 points, and he had six steals.w Freshman guard Devin Harris had five assists and seven rebounds.“The things that jumped out were A.J. Merriweather did some great things for his first game,” said Bartow, “and Rashawn Rembert continues to play well. We really had a lot of guys make plays offensively.“Defensively, we just weren’t very good. We’re going to try to play a lot more man this year and sprinkle in some zone. We just have a long way to go with that.”The defense may look better today against the Lions, who are coming off a 4-22 season in coach Rick Scruggs’ debut at the South Atlantic Conference school and have 13 new players on their roster. Scruggs is a former coach at Milligan and Gardner-Webb.The teams have played only once previously, in 2004, and ETSU romped to a 100-57 victory.Bartow will likely shuffle his starting lineup today, perhaps moving Merriweather into the mix.“I wouldn’t think we’ll start the same five,” he said. “We’ve really got a nine- or 10-man rotation to figure out right now. I would be surprised when we play Charlotte next week if we don’t play 10 guys.”

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