(Photo by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
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Some nights every possession seems like a struggle to score points for the East Tennessee State basketball team.
And then there are nights like Thursday.
The Bucs got out of the gate with a free-and-easy pace, spread the points around and ended up with a 99-93 victory over North Florida. Four players had at least 18 points, and the team missed only once in 33 trips to the foul line.
The Bucs were able to pull away with 58 points on 59 percent shooting in the second half. They finished with their highest output, by 10 points, against a Division I opponent this season.
Coach Murry Bartow said afterward that his players responded well to having a little more “freedom” to operate on offense. On Friday, he didn’t want to make it sound too easy.
“It was a tough game, and I don’t think it was easy sitting over there and watching,” Bartow said Friday. “We did have to come from behind to win. But at least it was refreshing that we were able to score a few points and get things flowing.
“It was a really good win over a really good team.”
The Bucs made their last 23 free throw attempts to raise their season percentage almost two points, to 71.9. That’s second in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“It’s funny how that works,” said Bartow. “Sometimes you start missing and it becomes contagious. Then you have times like last night. We do have some good free throw shooters, and if you really analyze that game, those were mostly the guys shooting them.”
Asked if he recalled ever having a team shoot 97 percent on so many attempts, Bartow said, “I really don’t.”
Rashawn Rembert was perfect on a dozen trips and finished with 22 points. Hunter Harris had the only miss on a night where he scored a team-high 24 points, one off his career high.
The Bucs also got 19 points and seven rebounds from Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard and 18 points from Jalen Riley.
Rembert and Riley are both right at 84 percent from the line for the season.
The victory was much-needed for the Bucs (10-10, 3-4). They were coming off a deflating trip to Florida last week, losing by six at Stetson and then getting blown out 90-62 at Florida Gulf Coast.
Now they’re thinking about getting back into the upper echelon of the conference as they continue a five-game homestand. Jacksonville visits the Dome today.
The Dolphins (8-11, 4-4) look like a typical Cliff Warren team — athletic, aggressive and streaky.
They have wins over Florida Gulf Coast, Lipscomb and Stetson – three teams that defeated ETSU the first time around – but have also lost to Northern Kentucky and, most recently, USC Upstate. They are 1-8 on the road.
As always, the Dolphins look dangerous to Bartow, who can pick up his 200th victory as ETSU’s coach today.
“I think they’re very dangerous,” he said. “They’re very talented, and Cliff does a good job of coaching that team. To be able to beat Florida Gulf Coast, if they’re talented enough to do that, they’re pretty good.”
The Dolphins are giving up 79 points a game, which ranks ninth in the conference. They are last in rebound margin (-5.3).
Jarvis Haywood, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Charlotte, leads the A-Sun in scoring at 17.5 ppg., and senior guard Keith McDougald (13.3) is also in double figures. Point guard Vince Martin is the league leader in steals (2.1) and ranks third in assists (4.8).
The Dolphins have a presence inside with Javon Dawson, a 6-6, 260-pound senior who pulls down 6.9 rebounds a game.
“They have one of the better starting lineups in our league,” said Bartow. “Haywood and McDougald are ballers, always looking to score. They’re not easy to deal with.”
ETSU leads the all-time series 12-6.