The Bucs (4-2), who have won three straight games, host the Bison (2-3) on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Freedom Hall Civic Center. It's highly possible that North Dakota State, a school more known for its six-time FCS national championship football program, will be looking ahead to a Monday matchup against No. 3 Gonzaga.
ETSU's focus is its own execution and coming out of the gates strong. The Bucs trailed in each of its last two wins against Chicago State and Sam Houston State. Although the Bucs pulled away for double-digit wins in both games, ETSU coach Steve Forbes wants more of a complete performance.
"We have to be more aggressive at the start of games, and I let our guys know that," Forbes said. "Sometimes, you take teams too lightly. We've got to go out there and grind no matter who we're playing."
BUCS ON THE BOARDS
Throughout the early season, the Bucs have dominated the rebounding battle, holding a 43.3 to 26.7 per game advantage. Jeromy Rodriguez is the category leader at 12.5 per game to go along with his 11.3 per game scoring averaging. Besides Rodriguez averaging a double-double, Mladen Armus has bolstered the inside presence with 10.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
With their dominance on the offensive glass, the Bucs outscored Chicago State and Sam Houston State by a combined 29-3 in second-chance points. For the season, ETSU holds a 104-39 advantage over its opponents in offensive rebounds.
Also on the offensive end, Tray Boyd III leads the team in scoring at 12.7 points per game, including team-highs of 18 and 23 points in the last two victories. Local product Patrick Good is contributing 10.7 points per game, the same number for Bo Hodges, who has continued to recover from a groin injury.
ETSU has also gotten production out of the point guard position. Isaiah Tisdale posted a strong all-around effort against Winthrop, helping trigger a three-game winning streak, and Daivien Williamson has come in to give the Bucs a change of tempo.
SCOUTING THE BISON
North Dakota State was picked to finish fifth in the Summit League's preseason poll, and 6-foot-6 junior guard Tyson Ward was named to the preseason All-Conference team.
Overshadowed by its football program, the Bison have averaged 21 wins per season on the hardwood over the last six years. The support for the basketball team is strong as North Dakota State has led the Summit League in attendance the last two seasons.
Ward leads the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game and rebounds with a 5.2 average. It is an area where North Dakota State has struggled, averaging just 28.2 rebounds per game as a team compared to 34.6 for its opponents.
Other scoring leaders are: Rocky Kreuser, a 6-foot-10 forward with 11.2 points per game, Tyree Eady with 10.2 and Deng Geu at 9.4 points.
In North Dakota State's 76-51 win over Towson on Sunday, Eady had 14 points and Geu finished with 13. They led a balanced scoring attack that saw seven players score at least eight points. The Bison also have been good to take care of the basketball, averaging just 10.8 turnovers per game.
This will be North Dakota State's first trip to the Volunteer State since 2007, when the Bison scored a 90-72 win over Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. Forbes feels the Bucs need to be focused for both halves so the Bison don’t win again.
“We have to grow up as a team,” Forbes said. “We’re talented. We’ve got good players, but we’ve got to be more consistent, play 40 minutes.”