East Tennessee State enters its next game on a rare losing streak, and it’s something coach Steve Forbes wants to end right away.
The Bucs, who play host to The Citadel at 7 p.m. Thursday in a Southern Conference basketball game at Freedom Hall, are coming off losses to Wofford and Furman. Those results left them in a third-place tie with virtually no chance to win the league’s regular-season title.
“We turned one loss into two and I don’t want it to be three, like jumping off a ledge,” Forbes said.
After an emotional 78-76 overtime loss to SoCon-leading Wofford at home last Thursday, the Bucs went to Greenville, South Carolina, and laid an egg. Their 91-61 loss to Furman was their second-worst beating in Forbes’ four seasons at ETSU.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Forbes said. “Number one, Furman played really well. You have to give them credit. Every time we tried to get back in it, they answered the bell. Defensively, we didn’t play very well on the perimeter, especially. They got wide-open looks and they got confidence.
“The third thing, I do think there was probably a little hangover emotionally from Thursday. I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t see it. I thought they handled it pretty well, but talking to them after the game...”
The Bucs come into Thursday’s game 19-7 overall, 9-4 in the SoCon. The Citadel is 11-12, 3-9.
“We just have to play better,” Forbes said. “This time of year, it’s about winning. We have to win and put ourselves in position for March.”
Forbes said he wished he had used a different word to describe his team’s performance in the emotional moments after the Furman game.
“I was unhappy and I said some things I wish I didn’t say,” he said. “I don’t think ‘disgraceful’ was the word I should have used. They’ve never done anything disgraceful. They didn’t play well, didn’t play up to standard, but disgraceful is a totally different word.
“I blew up. We’re over it. Now we’re back to the routine.”
ETSU beat the Bulldogs 98-73 in January as freshman point guard Daivien Williamson scored a career-high 24 points.
“I thought we played pretty well down there,” Forbes said. “We shot it well. I do think they’ll guard us different. They didn’t play any junk defense. I think we’ll see it this time. I think we’ll see box-and-one on Pat, triangle-and-two on Pat, Tray and Daivien. I think they’ll throw the kitchen sink at us that way.”
Jeromy Rodriguez and Patrick Good are tied for the team scoring lead at 12.0 points per game. Tray Boyd III averages 11.5.
Rodriguez continues to lead the SoCon in rebounding at 11.3 per game. That’s sixth nationally. His 12 double-doubles are tied for 14th.
SCOUTING THE CITADEL
The Bulldogs have lost 10 of their last 12 games, but they’re coming off a 67-61 victory over Mercer.
Points should be available on Thursday night. No team in the country allows more than the Citadel. The Bulldogs’ opponents are averaging 85.1 points per game. There are 351 teams listed in the NCAA Division I basketball stats, and that ranks 350th.
The Bulldogs are led by graduate transfer guard Lew Stallworth, who averages 19.2 points per game. He previously played at UTEP and Texas Rio Grande.
Senior forward Zane Najdawi averages 13.2 points, and senior guard Matt Frierson averages 12.9. Frierson has made 87 shots from 3-point range this season, but went 0 for 5 in the previous meeting with ETSU.
Only one team, Savannah State, has attempted more 3-point shots than The Citadel’s 813.
VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL
With Thursday being Valentine’s Day, fans can purchase two tickets for $14 when using the promo code “Valentine” online at ETSUBucs.com.