East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow says he won’t be surprised by anything that happens the first two months of the basketball season.
That includes the close call against Carson-Newman in the exhibition last Saturday. The Bucs led by 17 midway through the second half but found themselves hanging on for dear life at the end against a Division II team they beat by 30 a year earlier. They scored the last six points to win 71-63.
After a few days to digest it, Bartow was sticking to the script.
“November and December, nothing will surprise me,” he said Wednesday. “I think we’ll have some good moments and some tough moments. My hope is we’ll eventually be good enough to win our league, play really well in January and February. We just have to keep grinding.”
The grind officially begins Saturday at Virginia Tech, a team picked to finish 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference under first-year head coach James Johnson. Tipoff is 2 o’clock.
Bartow will likely shuffle his starting lineup as the Bucs open in Blacksburg for the second straight year. Against the Eagles, he went with senior guards Sheldon Cooley and Marcus Dubose, junior-college transfers Hunter Harris and Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, and sophomore John Walton.
There’s a good chance Petey McClain could take over at point guard. The freshman had seven points and four assists in 24 minutes off the bench against Carson-Newman, and there’s the thought that if he’s going to be running the team for four years, he might as well start now.
“I don’t want to go too far too quick,” said Bartow, “but Petey is really good. There’s a lot of risk-reward with a high-octane point guard, especially a freshman, and we’ve got to live with some of that. It’s not easy.”
Lester Wilson, the redshirt freshman from Knoxville, could also find a starting spot. He led the Bucs with 17 points on Saturday, including eight in the last two minutes.
“Lester has a lot of offensive skills,” said Bartow. “Number one, he can really shoot. Every time we’ve played, in scrimmages and the exhibition the other night, he’s shown he’s one of our best scorers. Defensively, he still has some issues.”
A couple of the starters had offensive issues on Saturday. Dubose went 1 of 12 from the field, and Gadsden-Gilliard attempted only two shots in 25 minutes. Also, Harris was 2 of 7.
Bartow wouldn’t necessarily describe his team’s 38 percent shooting, with 21 turnovers, as a chemistry issue -- a product of throwing a bunch of newcomers together for the first time.
“I don’t think it’s chemistry. This team is incredibly coachable and has good chemistry,” he said. “It’s just a lack of experience. When you’re young and inexperienced, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.
“We were able to make mistakes and win against Carson-Newman. If we were playing Virginia Tech, we’re going to lose that game by 20. They would have exploited more of those mistakes.”
The ETSU women may have found a point guard for the long haul.
Freshman Brianna McQueen, all 5-foot-3 of her, started both exhibitions and scored in double figures in each. McQueen was a Class 4A all-stater at Jonesboro, Ga., and averaged 26 points a game as a senior.
The immediate concern for coach Karen Kemp may be getting the youngster to slow down a bit. McQueen had seven turnovers against Carson-Newman and five against Young Harris.
The Lady Bucs tip off their season Friday night at High Point.
The last weekend of the volleyball regular season is at hand.
The Bucs visit North Florida on Friday night and Jacksonville on Saturday. They have won four straight matches, including an upset of previously unbeaten Florida Gulf Coast, and eight of 10 to improve to 20-10 on the season.
At 11-5 in conference, they can lock up the No. 3 seed for the tournament. FGC (15-1) and three-time defending champion Lipscomb (14-2) hold the top two spots, and Northern Kentucky (10-6) is fourth.
The tournament begins Nov. 15 at Lipscomb.
Adam Chase and Andres Ludvigsen were named to the A-Sun cross country all-academic team on Wednesday.
Chase, a sophomore from Kingsport, carries a 4.00 GPA in mathematics and was one of two unanimous choices. He earned second-team all-conference honors last month with a 13th-place finish at the A-Sun meet in Ft. Myers, Fla.
Ludvigsen, a junior from Denmark, is a pre-business major with a 3.71 GPA. He was 15th at the conference meet, helping the Bucs to a second-place finish.