“It’s unbelievable to finish with three straight games in front of the best fans in the SoCon,” ETSU guard Desonta Bradford said. “Can’t ask for anything better than that.”
What could be a frenetic final week begins Tuesday when The Citadel visits Freedom Hall for a 7 p.m. tip-off. A Bucs’ victory would ensure them of at least a share of the Southern Conference’s regular-season championship.
ETSU comes in 23-5 overall, 14-1 in the SoCon.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the year if we could be 14-1 going into the last three games at home, I’d take it 100,000 percent of the time,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “What a great way to finish league play at home in front of our fans and we’re playing for the whole ball of wax.”
With a two-game lead over UNC Greensboro in the standings, the Bucs control their own destiny. No matter what UNCG does, if ETSU wins at least two of its last three games, it clinches its first outpright conference regular-season championship in 11 years. Under Forbes, the Bucs have never finished worse than second. They tied for the title last year before winning the conference tournament.
The Bucs will finish the season with 11 true road victories, second in the nation only to Middle Tennessee State’s 12.
They withstood two stretches of conference play where they had three road games in a row, something that didn’t thrill Forbes when the schedule came out. His team battled through it and went 8-1 on the road in the conference.
After Monday night’s game, the team finishes with home games against Wofford on Friday night and Furman on Sunday.
“We’ve played well on the road, but it’s time to go home and finish this thing,” Forbes said. “I know our fans are going to come, but we need to fill Freedom Hall three nights in a row. We need that place popping all three nights. We’re looking forward to it.”
LAST TIME VS. CITADEL
ETSU beat the Bulldogs 73-71 on Jan. 29. It was a game the Bucs deserved to lose, but thanks to some help from The Citadel at critical times, they pulled it out in the end.
The Citadel apparently picked up some confidence from that encounter, winning its next two games against Wofford and Furman.
The Bulldogs came back to earth and come to Johnson City on a four-game losing streak. They’re 9-18 overall, 4-11 in the SoCon.