Marcus Dubose came to East Tennessee State with a reputation as an explosive scorer, and he did nothing to tarnish that the first time out.
The former junior-college guard poured in 30 points in 27 minutes Saturday to lead the Bucs to a 101-72 exhibition victory over Tusculum.
Dubose brought instant offense off the bench, including six 3-pointers. Four came during a four-minute span in the first half as the Bucs raced out to a 22-point halftime lead.
It was, by any measure, a flashy debut for the Hartsville, S.C., native who spent the last two years at Mendocino Community College in northern California. He led his conference in scoring last season at over 23 points per game.
“The system is a little different here, but basketball is basketball,” said Dubose. “I’m going to try to do this every night, win games and get us back to the NCAA tournament.”
ETSU coach Murry Bartow has touted the 6-2, 180-pound Dubose as an impact player since his signing in April, though he admitted Saturday that he’s been “a little frustrated” by the newcomer’s practice habits.
“He’s not been practicing as well as I would like,” said Bartow. “I think he may be a gamer. We need scorers, and he provides that.”
The Bucs had more than enough offense to beat Tusculum, the NCAA Division II school just down the road. They ran out to a 16-2 lead, expanded that to 54-32 by halftime and were able to coast from there.
That didn’t mean all the numbers looked good at the end.
The Pioneers held a 42-40 rebounding edge and were outscored by only seven in the second half.
“Rebounds could be a major concern for us all year,” said Bartow. “Fifteen offensive rebounds for them, that bothers me.”
So did fouls.
Point guard Adam Sollazzo picked up his fifth with 7:03 to play, and three other starters finished with four. The Pioneers outscored the Bucs 23-14 at the foul line.
“We want 15 or less fouls, and tonight we end up with 30,” said Bartow. “Fouling is bad defense, and we fouled way too much.”
The Bucs had five players score in double figures.
Sheldon Cooley showed a more confident shooting stroke and netted 15 points. Tommy Hubbard had 14 to go with 10 rebounds, while Sollazzo added 13 and Brown 10.
Cooley made 6 of 10 shots, mostly jumpers, and said he’s ready to play a more prominent role this season. The junior started at shooting guard and played 22 minutes.
“Coach expects me to play a little bit more, since we lost so much at the guard position,” he said. “It felt great to be out there.”
The Bucs shot 54 percent from the field and had 18 assists against 12 turnovers.
The Pioneers shot 41 percent, with eight assists and 22 turnovers. They did get impressive showings from their frontcourt.
Junior forward Jordan Davidson knifed his way for 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and he grabbed nine rebounds. Center Tommy Klempin, a 6-10 senior, collected 16 and eight, respectively, and was frequently a mismatch inside.
“If we can get him the ball deep in the lane, good things will happen,” said first-year Tusculum coach Michael Jones.
Jones wasn’t hired until August and inherited a team that was picked seventh in the South Atlantic Conference preseason poll. He knew the Pioneers weren’t going to match up well Saturday; they had lost 78-41 here last November.
“For the most part, it was what I expected,” said Jones. “ETSU is a team with several returning players and is very good. We’re a D-2 team with a new coach.”
The Pioneers have only one instate player on their roster, and that’s junior Dionte Grey of Johnson City. The former Science Hill guard had four points in 18 minutes Saturday.
The homecoming crowd of 3,226 got only glimpses of the ETSU freshmen; the three in uniform all played less than 10 minutes. Lester Wilson had six points and seven rebounds, and he put the Bucs over the century mark with a basket in the final minute.
Rashawn Rembert missed the game to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Tampa, Fla.
All in all, the lasting impression was the other newcomer, Dubose.
“He’s not that big, but he’s got that flow to his game,” said Bartow. “In junior college he scored a lot, but he did it efficiently. You saw that tonight; he got 30 points on 16 shots.”
Whether Dubose will be coming off the bench when the Bucs host Carson-Newman in their last exhibition Saturday remains to be seen.
“I’m going to start my best players,” said Bartow. “Obviously he’s going to put pressure on me to start him.”