His team has proven it’s never out of a game. Now Murry Bartow’s Bucs have to prove they can win another conference game during the week.
East Tennessee State is 1-6 in Atlantic Sun Conference basketball games played on weekdays, with six straight losses. It’s 5-1 on Saturdays.
The Bucs get their next chance to break that pattern tonight when A-Sun doormat Kennesaw State comes to town for a 7 o’clock game at the Minidome. The Bucs (8-18, 6-7) have beaten the Owls (3-21, 2-10) in their last 14 meetings.
“Obviously at home, we’re late in the season, every game is important, every game is magnified,” Bartow said. “It’s a game we’ve got to win.”
The Bucs are coming off a 62-61 victory over Stetson, a game in which they were down by 20 points in the second half before rallying to win on Rashawn Rembert’s late 3-pointer.
“I see a more confident team right now,” Bartow said. “The comebacks have helped. Any time you can come back being way down, it’s certainly a good thing. It’s good to know when you are down that you’ve got the ability to make a run and come back.
“You don’t want to get that far down, but to be down 20 on the road and still have the ability to fight back, I think it tells you something about the character of this team and the guys on this team, the grit and the toughness. It’s not easy when you’re that far down to pull together and come back. Fortunately, three or four times this year we’ve been able to do it.”
It was the fourth time the Bucs have erased a deficit of at least 17 points in the second half and come back to win this season. The comebacks have become a rallying cry for a team that finds itself one game out of third place.
“It does a lot for us to get us rolling,” Rembert said. “That’s all we need. You get one like that, then you get another one and before long you get a streak of games going into tournament time.”
The Bucs (8-18 overall, 6-7 A-Sun) haven’t had a winning streak of any kind this year. Tonight, they’re trying to post back-to-back victories for the first time.
Kennesaw State (3-21, 2-10) has only two A-Sun victories over the past two seasons, but one of them came in their last game — a 75-68 win over Jacksonville.
The Owls are led by Markeith Cummings, who averages an A-Sun-leading 17.0 points a game. The 6-7 senior was benched for two games after ETSU’s 70-60 victory on Jan. 19. Delbert Love averages 11.4 points while Aaron Anderson, a 6-7 senior, leads the league in rebounding at 8.6. He had 14 rebounds against ETSU this season.
“The guy I like as much as anybody on their team is Anderson,” Bartow said. “He’s kind of a Dennis Rodman type and can just go get the ball so we’ve got to do a good job keeping him off the glass.”
Rembert’s game winner was his fourth 3-pointer of the game. The sophomore guard has moved into second place among A-Sun 3-point shooters, making 42 percent of his long-range shots.
“You always think about hitting the last shot, the game winner,” said Rembert, whose scoring average has increased to 8.4. “It was big, but at the same time, I take shots like that all the time in practice so it was just routine. Get the ball in the right corner and it’s going in.”
Jarvis Jones is leading the Bucs in scoring, averaging 16.3 points a game. Lester Wilson is averaging 14.4.
Bartow says his team is making progress at the right time of the season.
“We’re still trying to improve,” he said. “ I think we’re better today than we were a week ago. I don’t know if we could win the tournament today though. I still think we’ve got things we have to improve and change and tweak and get better at before the tournament rolls around. But fortunately it’s still two or three weeks away.”