The basketball season is young for East Tennessee State, but the Bucs have already experienced a roller coasters ride of sports.
The thrill of a last-second victory over Atlantic 10 Conference foe Charlotte didn’t last long since it was followed by a four-game losing streak. Thank goodness for Appalachian State, the victim in half of ETSU’s four victories.
But now that the Bucs have had a chance to catch their breath after a grueling six-game road swing, they’re hoping to right the ship for good. They will have had nine days between games when Milligan College comes to the Dome on Monday night, and it’s been time put to good use.
“Most college teams are gonna have their ups and downs,” senior forward Tommy Hubbard said. “Hopefully we learn from our ups and downs and we get better.”
Senior forward Isiah Brown says it’s a familiar story.
“Every year, we’ve had a tough beginning and then we bounced back and it starts clicking,” Brown said. “We’re definitely going to get on a roll. We have a great winning tradition and we have great players. We just have to figure it out.”
“Why not?” Hubbard said. “Why can’t we go on another roll? I definitely think we have the firepower to get us on another roll.”
After the six consecutive games away from home — the Bucs haven’t played in the Dome in a month — they’re finally settling down into a normal schedule.
“I’m glad we have some time to practice,” Hubbard said. “We weren’t really playing great basketball and we really didn’t have that much practice time. We had six road games and all of them were right next to each other with not much practice time. It was kind of hard to correct our mistakes.”
Junior-college transfer Marcus Dubose showed some early flashes with a 27-point effort against Troy and 26 against Charlotte, but has cooled off since.
The stats show the Bucs need Dubose to score to be successful. In ETSU’s four wins, he’s averaging 16.8 points. In the five losses, he’s getting 9.6.
“I’m trying to get back to it,” Dubose said. “I had a couple of rough games, but I’m still working hard. Some nights I’m in my zone, some nights I’m not gonna be in my zone. As long as we keep playing as a team, that’s what matters.”
After the Milligan game, the Bucs take on a couple heavyweights, Dec. 23 at Tennessee and Jan. 1 at Clemson. Both teams would appear more beatable than usual. The Vols lost to Austin Peay and the College of Charleston in their last two outings and Clemson has suffered defeats to Coastal Carolina and Charleston.
“Those are really, really important games,” Brown said. “They lead us back into conference play. Seeing good competition before you enter conference play is important.”
Of course, the Bucs have already entered Atlantic Sun Conference play, so this will be a re-entry of sorts. The initial entry didn’t go too smoothly. They lost to Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast during the road swing and will be 0-2 when they resume A-Sun action Jan. 4 when USC-Upstate comes to town.
“We are way, way back,” Brown said. “But it’s all about what’s going on in March. We have to get ourselves in position and get better.”