Scoring the basketball has never been a real problem for Marcus Dubose. In fact, East Tennessee State’s junior guard can’t remember any significant droughts in his career.
He’s in the middle of one now, however.
Dubose, who came to the Bucs after averaging over 23 points at a California junior college last season, has hit double figures only twice in the last nine games, and he has 11 points total over the last four. His season average has dipped to 9.7.
“It is frustrating a little bit,” Dubose said Friday. “I’ve never had this type of season before. It’s just been a transition for me – new system, plays, sets. It’s all new to me.”
Dubose’s offensive struggles mirror his team’s. The Bucs are collectively scoring 68.2 points per game, which ranks eighth in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and averaging just 4.2 3-pointers, which ranks about 320th nationally.
In their last game, they scored a season-low 46 points on 27 percent shooting in an eight-point loss at Mercer.
“We’ve always run a lot of the same sets in the nine years I’ve been here,” said coach Murry Bartow, “and we do struggle at times to score the ball consistently. Some games it’s both halves. Some games it’s one half, and we figure out how to turn it on.
“We’re good in transition, and we’ve got to get more easy baskets. In the half court, we’re good on the glass and getting second chances. We just haven’t been making a lot of open shots.”
Bartow isn’t sure what to make of Dubose’s fade. The Hartsville, S.C., native was brought in to provide instant offense – and he opened with 31 points in the team’s first exhibition -- but the confidence has just seemed to be lacking for much of the season.
Dubose is shooting 39 percent from the field, and 26 percent on 3-pointers. He has launched 96 of those – 20 more than anyone else on the team.
“Is it a confidence thing? Could be,” said Bartow. “He has the talent to potentially get you 18 to 20 points a night. We’ve got to somehow get him going again. All we can do is get him good shots, and it’s up to him to make them.”
Bartow said Dubose will be in the starting lineup tonight when the Bucs (12-11, 6-6) host North Florida (13-13, 7-6).
It’s another challenging matchup, considering the Ospreys have won four of their last five games. (The loss came at Belmont.) They also knocked ETSU out of the A-Sun tournament in the semifinals last season.
The Bucs did win the earlier matchup this season in Jacksonville, 64-63, when Adam Sollazzo hit the go-ahead free throw with 2.4 seconds left.
Sollazzo led the Bucs with 21 points and five assists. They had trailed by 15 in the first half before rallying with 68 percent shooting after the break.
“We were lucky to win, from what I remember,” said Bartow. “The last four times we’ve played North Florida, I believe three of the four came down to the last possession.
“They’re a hot team right now and have really played about as well as anybody in our league this season. They have two of the best shooters in (Jerron) Granberry and (Parker) Smith, and their two post players have played well. They’re the No. 1 field-goal percentage team in the league, so it’s going to be a real test for our defense.”
Smith leads the Ospreys in scoring at 13.2, and he’s made 68 3-pointers. Granberry has 62 treys and averages 10.9 ppg. Both are juniors.
Coach Matthew Driscoll’s team is also getting 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench from sophomore forward Travis Wallace.
ETSU’s trio of seniors is producing 37 points and 19 rebounds a game. Sollazzo carries a 15.7 scoring average, while Isiah Brown is at 11.1 and Tommy Hubbard 10.2 Hubbard leads the team in rebounding, at 7.1 per game.
Bartow hopes the home court is worth a few more points today. The Bucs won their first six games in the Dome before stumbling against Lipscomb and Belmont.
The offense has certainly flowed a little better in the friendly confines.
“I think we’ve averaged about 80 points in our six wins here, so it can be done,” said Bartow.