ETSU take down Bison for fourth straight win

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Nov 24, 2018 at 9:14 PM

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State finally put together the complete game that coach Steve Forbes had been looking for.

Controlling both halves of basketball, the Bucs took a 79-61 victory over North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon for the team's fourth straight win.

ETSU scored the game's first five points, led by a dozen points at the half, and only trailed once — that being early in the game.

Isaiah Tisdale hit 8 of 10 attempts from the floor to lead ETSU (5-2) with 18 points. However, it was a collective effort as five players scored at least nine points and all nine Bucs who saw action made the scoring column.

"Coach (BJ) McKie pulled me to the side and told me to keep my confidence," Tisdale said. "I believe we just came out with intensity throughout the game. We didn't get lackadaisical when we got up about 12 or 14. We just tried to keep pushing and giving the effort to get the extra rebound and all of that."

Jeromy Rodriguez netted 14 points and leading scorer Tray Boyd III finished with 13 points. D'Andre Bernard came off the bench to post 10 points, while Mladen Armus ended with nine points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

It was on the defensive end where the Bucs really shined. The Bucs held the Bison (2-4) to an 11-of-28 effort from the field and just 2-of-15 from 3-point range. It led to a 39-27 halftime advantage. ETSU continued the strong effort in the second half, holding the Bison to 21-of-58 (39.7 percent) for the game.

"We got closer to a complete game," Forbes said. "At the first of the second half, we didn't play great defense and they were shooting in the 60s, but we got it down to the 40s. Against Sam Houston State, it was down in the 30s, so we're getting there. We still have some things we have to correct and mature as a team, and when we have to put the foot down, then put the foot down. I thought for the most part we were able to do that today."

While the Bison were able slice the lead to five, the Bucs continued to stay in control and pushed it back out to double digits. They led by at least 10 points the final five minutes of the game.

Rocky Kreuser led North Dakota State with 13 points and seven rebounds. Tyson Ward contributed 11 points and Jarius Cook ended with 10.

They couldn't keep pace with the Bucs, who shot 59.3 percent from the field and outscored the Bison 36-24 in the paint.

Forbes was pleased with the overall effort of his big men, talking about Armus and Rodriguez combining for 23 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists. He compared Bernard to a pinch hitter in baseball coming in and making the most of his opportunity. Bernard, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, knew what the coach was talking about.

"I know I've got to be ready to go when my number is called," Bernard said. "We have a great group of guys, 1 through 13. When it's time to get your chance, you have to have the right mindset. All of us can produce and do something. I thought everyone did a great job of staying focused on that."

All four wins have come without starting guard Bo Hodges, who continues to recover from a groin injury.

Next up for ETSU are a couple of road games at Georgia Southern and Wofford.

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