History can’t help the East Tennessee State basketball team when it tips off a new season tonight at Charlotte.
But it can’t hurt.
The Bucs have won three of their four previous games against the 49ers. The last time they walked into Halton Arena, two years ago, they walked out with a 70-69 victory, thanks to Jarvis Jones’ only basket, a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
ETSU coach Murry Bartow doesn’t know how much that win is worth now, but it’s a fond memory.
“I don’t think it hurts, to be able to remind our guys of that game,” he said Thursday. “But Charlotte has an entirely new team, and we’ve got a new team. Rashawn (Rembert) and Lukas (Poderis) did help us some in that last game, so there is a small connection there.”
Of course, ETSU’s team in 2011-12 was loaded with experience — Adam Sollazzo, Tommy Hubbard, Isiah Brown, Sheldon Cooley. This ETSU team has six newcomers, and the chemistry will likely take awhile to develop.
Bartow says he’s planning to use a 10-man rotation tonight — four of those guys have yet to play a Division I game — but isn’t sure who will even be on the floor at the start.
“In practice we’ve been running with about eight guys on the blue team a lot,” he said. “We could conceivably start any of them. I’d be surprised in this game if 10 guys didn’t play.
“There’s really not a lot of separation with our lineup, and I truly don’t love that. I wish we had five or six that were head and shoulders above the others, maybe two or three that are ready to be all-league players.”
Rashawn Rembert certainly looked the part in the Bucs’ first exhibition, scoring 33 points against Milligan College. The junior wing made nine 3-pointers.
Rembert played seven minutes in the win at Charlotte two years ago and smiles when asked what he remembers about it.
“It was a tough game the whole time; they had some wild fans,” he said. “The only shot Jarvis makes all night was the only one that mattered ... that was great.
“I think it does help me to know what we’re getting into, now that we’re going back into that atmosphere.”
Freshman A.J. Merriweather was ETSU’s leading scorer in the preseason, with 17 and 27 points in the two exhibitions. He was 17 of 19 from the field.
The offense surely won’t flow for the Bucs tonight quite like it did against outmanned opponents. They scored 118 points against Milligan and 119 against Mars Hill.
Bartow just wants quality possessions against the 49ers.
“We can’t get into a situation where we have a ton of turnovers,” he said. “We have to keep them to low offensive rebounds; we can’t let them humiliate us on the glass. They’re capable of that, and that’s probably a weakness of ours.”
The 49ers return four starters from a 21-12 team a year ago. They have moved from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the newly revamped 16-team Conference USA, and are expected to finish in the middle of the pack under fourth-year coach Alan Major.
Junior guard Pierria Henry is the team’s top returning scorer, at 10.3 ppg. He had 18 to lead five Charlotte players in double figures in an 81-57 exhibition victory over Wingate.
Among the tough matchups inside for the Bucs are forward Willie Clayton, a 6-8, 236-pound sophomore, and center Mike Thorne, a 6-10, 254-pound redshirt sophomore.
“We just need to defend,” said Rembert. “We have to tighten up, communicate more and just be tough out there. That’s what it takes if you want to play with these bigger teams.”