After a couple of close calls against teams from big conferences, the East Tennessee State basketball team returns to the league that counts the most for them, the Atlantic Sun.
The Bucs play host to USC-Upstate tonight, and they’ll be trying to figure out a few things. As Adam Sollazzo and Tommy Hubbard have picked their games up in recent games, the rest of the team seems to have gone on hiatus.
In the Bucs’ 65-58 loss at Clemson on Sunday, Sollazzo scored a career-high 27 points and Hubbard added 19. The rest of the starters combined for a total of seven points.
Sollazzo, who averages a team-leading 14.8 points a game, and Hubbard, who averages 10.3, were the only two players in double figures in the 66-63 loss at Tennessee as well.
Marcus Dubose, who has three 20-point games so far and is averaging 11.3, has scored a total of five points in the last two games. Isiah Brown, ETSU’s senior forward, is averaging 10.6, but has just six the last two times out.
The recent two-man team syndrome has left ETSU coach Murry Bartow searching for answers.
“We’ve got to get a few guys playing a little better,” Bartow said. “We’ve got to analyze that. I’ve got to do a better job with a couple of guys. The last two games, Adam and Tommy have fought as hard as they can. We’ve got some other guys we have to get more out of.”
One player the Bucs won’t be getting anything out of this season is junior forward J.C. Ward. The 6-foot-6 physical presence has been declared out for the season with an ankle injury.
As they did against Tennessee, the Bucs showed they could stay with a team from a major conference for a while until falling down the stretch at Clemson They stayed even with the Tigers on the boards.
“Clemson is really physical,” Hubbard said. “I don’t think we’ll see another team as physical as Clemson. I think our guys did an excellent job matching the physicality. I think that will help us moving forward.”
USC-Upstate has a lot of new faces, but is led by one of two returning starters Torrey Craig. The 6-foot-6 sophomore averages 16.5 points a game, second in the league to Markeith Cummings. Ty Green, a freshman from Knox Bearden, is averaging 10.6.
The Spartans opened A-Sun play with wins at Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast, the same Florida swing that left ETSU 0-2. The game is the start of a three-game A-Sun homestand for the Bucs.
“It’s a very tough stretch of games coming up,” Bartow said. “We’re 0-2 in the league already, so these three home games are important games for us.”
Upstate is coming off a 72-66 loss at South Carolina.
“We’ve played some big-time competition, but Upstate has been playing the same kind of games,” Sollazzo said. “They’re playing high talent too, so it’s gonna be a battle. They’re good and they’re well coached. It’s gonna be a good game.”
The Bucs are 7-1 all-time against Upstate. ETSU also plays host to Mercer on Saturday and Kennesaw State on Monday.