The East Tennessee State basketball team needs to get healthy in a hurry.
With a week to go before the season opener at Virginia Tech, the Bucs played their final exhibition Saturday without three of the top six players in their rotation.
They still had no trouble subduing Carson-Newman as they tossed in 15 3-pointers in an 87-59 victory in the Dome.
ETSU coach Murry Bartow knew he’d be without senior point guard Adam Sollazzo, who sprained an ankle in practice last Monday, and junior shooting guard Marcus Dubose, who cracked a rib in the first exhibition game. Junior forward Lukas Poderis joined the injury list late Friday when he suffered a blow to the head in practice.
All three players will be re-evaluated Monday to see where they stand. Asked whether he expects them to be available next Saturday night in Blacksburg, Bartow said, “They better be, or it will be real hard to win.”
Jarvis Jones took advantage of extra playing time against the Eagles to score 19 points, a career high. The junior guard was in the starting lineup and showed off his silky left-handed stroke from the perimeter, hitting five 3-pointers.
“Coach told me if I’m open to shoot the ball and don’t worry about it,” said Jones, who launched 16 shots while logging a team-high 29 minutes. “I was ready to play.”
Sheldon Cooley added four 3-pointers and freshman Rashawn Rembert had three as the Bucs went 15 of 37 from behind the arc.
Isiah Brown was active on the inside and collected 19 points and 12 rebounds to show for it. He got to the foul line 10 times and made seven free throws.
The senior forward said his team was inspired to make a good showing on a day when it was short-handed.
“We showed we have players who can step up and play well,” said Brown. “Jarvis had a great game.”
Cooley, meanwhile, was efficient as the starting point guard: 5 of 8 from the field, 17 points, seven assists, six rebounds.
The Bucs also got an eye-catching 14 points from Rembert, who had missed the first exhibition game due to the death of his grandmother back home in Tampa, Fla. The youngster showed glimpses of his potential in the final two minutes of the first half, pulling up for a jumper off the glass, slashing to the basket for another score and then swishing a rainbow jumper from 3-point range that gave the Bucs a 49-21 lead at the break.
“I was nervous at first, but once I got in the flow everything was OK,” said Rembert.
The adjustment to college basketball, the speed of the game, has been typically challenging for the 6-3, 185-pound freshman. He also noted subtle differences.
“Everything is more intense,” he said. “Walking is not allowed around here. I walked in my first practice, and I haven’t walked since.”
With all sorts of combinations on the floor, the Bucs sputtered for stretches in the second half. The Eagles shot 52 percent in the period and played them to a draw, at 38 points apiece.
Under the circumstances, Bartow seemed pleased with most of what he saw.
“A lot of guys played well,” he said. “Isiah Brown was phenomenal. Sheldon Cooley had a big game, and this was a huge confidence builder for Jarvis Jones.”
As for Rembert, the coach was fairly impressed with this new addition to the mix.
“What he can do is make shots,” said Bartow. “Maybe he’s not where we want him to be in other areas, but when the ball hits his hands, he can make shots. He’s kind of an icy shooter; he’s not going to mind taking some hard shots. Plus, he’s a little taller than some of our other shooters.”
The Bucs did improve in a couple of areas where they were lacking in a 101-72 victory over Tusculum a week earlier. They outrebounded the Eagles 44-27 and committed 18 fouls, down from 30 in the first exhibition.
They also forced 24 turnovers.
“The pressure was good,” said Bartow. “We forced a lot of turnovers, and we rebounded the ball well.”
Carson-Newman was fresh off a visit to Tennessee on Thursday night. The Eagles hung around there for most of the way before the Vols pulled away to win 72-51.
Coach Chuck Benson, a former UT assistant, said the Bucs were a different kind of opponent.
“Tennessee across the board is bigger,” he said. “Coach (Cuonzo) Martin and his staff are early in the process of putting their touch and identity on the program. East Tennessee State, with their full-court pressure, is tough to deal with. Tennessee may have that in their package, but they didn’t show it to us.
“I’d like to think both teams will have a fair amount of success this season.”
The Eagles, picked to finish fifth in the South Atlantic Conference, appear to have a few weapons in the making.
Sophomore forward Antoine Davis showed a smooth game and finished with a game-high 20 points. Freshman Jared Johnson chipped in with 12, and Kennedy Eubanks, another freshman, scored 11.
Ishmael Sanders, the Eagles’ all-conference guard, still hasn’t gotten into the flow. The sophomore scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting after netting seven at Tennessee.