East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow didn’t have much to say after a deflating 61-55 loss to Jacksonville on Monday night. The scoreboard said it all.
Upon further review, Bartow still thinks this team is better than its 13-12 record would suggest and hasn’t given up hope of the Bucs making another serious run in Macon.
“Certain teams, talent-wise, you know you’re going to struggle,” Bartow said Wednesday. “The last four years, regardless of our record, I’ve felt we were good enough to win the tournament. And I believe this team could get on a roll, if we can score a few more points. We have five different guys who have hit 20 this season, so the capability is there.”
A lack of scoring punch has played like a broken record all season. ETSU is near the bottom in most of the offensive stats in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and Jacksonville just provided more evidence of why.
The Bucs built an 11-point lead in the first half against Jacksonville, then came unglued. They managed just 26 points on 29 percent shooting in the second half, and seniors Adam Sollazzo and Isiah Brown had totally forgettable nights.
Sollazzo, the team’s leading scorer, was 1 of 9 from the field and 1 of 6 at the foul line. Brown got in foul trouble, which included a technical in the second half, and put up just four shots in 22 minutes of action. That came two nights after he had a career-high 27 points.
As a team, the Bucs shot 36 percent from the field and 11 of 22 at the foul line.
“I put a lot of that on myself,” said Sollazzo, who finished with three points. “It was maybe my worst game of the year.”
Tommy Hubbard was the exception, with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and 13 rebounds. Marcus Dubose was hot early and finished with 20 points.
The team was sequestered in the lockeroom for the better part of two hours after the game, apparently for some intensive soul searching.
Bartow downplayed the dark mood on Wednesday.
“I’ve said it a hundred times: the effort is good, the attitude of the team is good, we’re defending well,” he said. “We just obviously struggle to score at times, and I don’t put that on anybody but me. We’ve got good players, all-league caliber players, and I have to find a way to get the most out of them.
“Getting everybody going on the same night has been the struggle. There’s just been a lack of consistency with the same guys being great every night.”
They’ll certainly all need to be great next time out. They visit Belmont on Saturday night.
n For better or worse, Bartow continues to use a seven-man rotation. When asked Wednesday if he was thinking more about getting freshmen Rashawn Rembert and John Walton a few more minutes — to start seasoning them for the future, if nothing else — the coach shook his head.
“I’m not to that point yet,” he said. “We’re 13-12; it’s not like we’re 4-20. We’ve been close in most of the games we’ve lost and just let them get away from us. We’ve got four very important regular-season games left and need to play well.”
Rembert, the 6-4 guard from Tampa, Fla., stepped in and scored 11 points in 15 minutes in a 64-59 victory over Kennesaw State on Feb. 4. He has played 11 minutes without scoring a point in the three games since.
“The guys he’s behind, Marcus (Dubose) and Jarvis (Jones), give us a better chance to win,” said Bartow. “In Rashawn’s defense, there were two games we won, Charlotte and Kennesaw State, that we wouldn’t have won without him coming in and giving us a lift.”
Dubose and Jones are both juniors, so Rembert may find himself in a similar situation next year.
n The women’s basketball team has already headed out for Nashville, with hopes of avoiding its 20th loss of the season. It plays tonight at Lipscomb, a team it crushed by 37 points at home three weeks ago, and then moves over to Belmont on Saturday.
Things have gone downhill fast since the Lady Bucs (6-19, 5-9) last saw Lipscomb. They’ve lost five of six to fall to eighth place in the A-Sun, and chemistry issues have been magnified.
They still hold a two-game edge over Lipscomb (5-20, 3-11) for the final playoff spot. But a loss tonight — which would be their 11th in 12 road games — could do irreparable harm.
The Lady Bucs finish the regular season against the top three teams in the standings. Florida Gulf Coast continues to lead the way, with a 15-0 record.
n The softball team is still looking for its first victory of the young season.
The Lady Bucs went 0-4 at the Georgia State First Pitch Classic last weekend. Three of the four games were one-run decisions, including two against Western Carolina.
Kara Woods, the former Unicoi County ace, gave up 17 runs on 25 hits in her first two starts at ETSU. She pitched 9 1/3 innings.
On the bright side, freshman infielder Haley Thompson went 6 of 12 with three runs batted in and three scored for the Lady Bucs. Five of those hits came Sunday in an 11-10, nine-inning loss to the Catamounts.
Alex Averett, another freshman, also batted 6-for-12 in her first weekend of collegiate softball.
The team moves on to the Quality Inn Classic in Troy, Ala., this weekend. Beside the host team, the field includes Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, Nicholls State and Missouri.