The East Tennessee State basketball team rode out of Charlotte with a big win, a nice paycheck and an early-season lesson in perseverance Tuesday night.
“I think the message to our team is it’s a 40-minute game, sometimes a game of inches, and you keep grinding away,” coach Murry Bartow said Wednesday. “We were down 10 late and guys kept battling.”
At the end, the ball found the hands of Jarvis Jones, who was spotted by Tommy Hubbard standing all alone in the left corner. The junior guard had missed his first three shots, but this one splashed through at the buzzer for a 70-69 victory over an Atlantic 10 Conference opponent.
Bartow said he would just as soon have Jones shooting an open 3-pointer with the game on the line as anything else. The smooth left-hander, who beat Lipscomb under similar circumstances two years ago, has now made half of the 12 treys he’s attempted this season.
“He’s one of those guys that wants to take that shot,” said Bartow. “On any team, some guys are more hesitant and some thrive in that situation. With Jarvis, it’s just his demeanor to want that shot.”
The basket, coming after the 49ers missed two free throws with eight seconds remaining, left the Bucs with a 3-1 record as they opened a six-game road swing. It’s their best start since 2003.
The players were given a couple of days off to enjoy Thanksgiving and will get back to work on Friday to prepare for a rematch with Troy next Tuesday night. They beat the Trojans 81-71 at home last Saturday; that’s the only opponent to score 70 on them so far.
“I’m pleased that we’re 3-1, but I think we’re still very much a work in progress,” said Bartow. “Defensively we’re doing some good things, but we’re still experimenting.
“With the emergence of Marcus Dubose, adding him to the three seniors, and Sheldon (Cooley) getting off to a good start, we like the way things are developing.”
Dubose led all scorers for the second straight game, with 26 points. The junior guard was 9 of 17 from the field and made all six of his free throws.
The Bucs also got 16 points from Isiah Brown and 14 from Hubbard. They shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded the 49ers 36-29.
“It was a great win, and a good trip home,” said Bartow.
n The road hasn’t been so kind to the ETSU women’s team.
The Lady Bucs are 0-4 and turned in one of their worst performances in recent memory in an 89-64 loss Monday night at Appalachian State. The ugliness included 34 turnovers and a 54-34 rebounding deficit.
“We’re just really young, playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” coach Karen Kemp said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, I haven’t had one of my seniors step up and be consistent. That’s what we’re searching for right now — senior leadership.”
One of the team’s three seniors, Natalie Pickwell, tossed in 23 points against the Mountaineers, but no other ETSU player scored more than nine. Pickwell, at 10.8 ppg., is the only Lady Buc averaging in double figures.
It’s been a tough start for point guard Tarita Gordon, the fifth-year senior who sat out last season with a knee injury. She had eight points and seven turnovers off the bench, with one assist, at App State.
Another player coming off a knee injury, sophomore Destiny Mitchell, had five points and eight turnovers. Mitchell was one of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top players as a freshman but hasn’t picked up where she left off before tearing an ACL in February.
“It’s just a lack of confidence right now,” said Kemp. “With Tarita, I think it’s mostly rust. She remembers that (30-point NCAA tournament) game at Xavier two years ago and expects herself to be at that level every night. A lot of it now is mental, and once we get past that she’ll be the player we need her to be.
“With Destiny, she just has not gotten into a rhythm yet. Again, it’s all mental. We know what kind of player she is.”
The Lady Bucs will try to get their first win Saturday when they host Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders were 2-2 heading into a home game Wednesday night against Tennessee Tech.
Tech defeated ETSU 87-76 in the season opener.
“MTSU always has a really good basketball team,” said Kemp, “and they bring in a lot of experience this year. Almost everybody is back.
“Hopefully we’re hungry, mad and upset because we don’t have a win yet. Maybe being back home will put us in a comfort zone.”
n Some of the finest players in ETSU men’s tennis history got together last weekend to reminisce and get to know each other better. The group of 13 was recognized at halftime of the Troy State basketball game.
Yaser Zaatini, now the director of tennis at the university, was a two-time All-American in the early 1990s and still stands as the most decorated player in the program’s history. He said he was honored just to be out there with the former Bucs.
“I know some of them personally, and I know something about all of them,” said Zaatini. “The most amazing thing of all is the quality of success that little group has had since they left ETSU. I’m blown away by what they’ve achieved.”
The group included Gustavo Gomez, Ricky Hernandez, Diego Iglesias, Enrique Olivares, Marcos Pablovich, Oscar Posada, Kenneth Roft, Armen Safarian, Moises Sorrano, Larry Stamm and Juan Yanuzzi. They were joined by assistant coaches Ricky Rojas and Travis Sandlant, and athletic director Dave Mullins, who was the head tennis coach when many of the players were at ETSU.
“It was amazing to see the connection of generations,” said Zaatini. “The stories we shared … there was a lot of good and some bad that’s now funny. I think we all feel such a gratefulness for what coach Mullins has done for the program and us personally. He’s been a father figure to a lot of us.”
n Fred Warren has been tapping into golf talent in the United Kingdom for years. Now the ETSU coach has planted a recruiting flag in real foreign territory.
Gudmundur Kristjansson of Reykjavik, Iceland signed with the Bucs earlier this week, along with Christopher Hickman of Maryland.
Warren didn’t actually travel to Iceland to recruit Kristjansson — “I’ve flown over it but never stopped there,” he said — but he was duly impressed with his play in a couple of tournament in the U.S.
“I saw him play at the Junior Orange Bowl in Miami; he finished fourth there in a very strong field,” said Warren. “The boy’s father is a graduate of Coastal Carolina. He’s a businessman in Iceland.”
The coach thinks the kid is capable of contributing immediately, although he hopes the Bucs will be deeper with the return of Rhys Enoch and Peter Wilson from injury.
“I would expect Gudmundur to have a chance to make our starting five as a freshman,” he said.
n Former ETSU baseball standout Bo Reeder is offering pitching and hitting instruction this offseason.
Reeder was one of the top two-way players in the nation as a junior last spring, setting an Atlantic Sun Conference record with 18 saves while batting .315 with 15 home runs. He was taken by the Seattle Mariners in the 36th round of the June draft.
The Cookeville native spent his rookie season at Pulaski of the Appalachian League and is now back in school to complete his degree in exercise science.
He can be contacted at 931-319-4429.