Boyd, Hodges lift Bucs over Catamounts

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 2, 2019 at 7:39 PM

Tray Boyd III had the hot hand for the East Tennessee State basketball team this time around.

The junior guard went 8-of-11 from the field, scoring a career-high 24 points on Saturday to lead the Bucs to an 81-74 win over Western Carolina in the men's basketball regular-season finale at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

"It was just a good night when I made shots," said Boyd after going 6-of-9 from 3-point range. "Late in the game, they changed their lineup, we went small and we bounced back."

With four wins in their last five games, the Bucs improved to 23-8 overall and 13-5 in the Southern Conference. It was the program's 99th win over the last four years, tying a school record set by the 1988-92 teams. ETSU, which will be the No. 4 seed in the Southern Conference tournament, will try to break that record next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when it faces Chattanooga in the quarterfinal round.

"I'm proud of our team. To win 23 games in the regular season, that is a good accomplishment," Forbes said. "We had 23 wins and just two home losses to Greensboro and Wofford."

To capture that regular-season finale, Bo Hodges provided an all-around effort of 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. Isaiah Tisdale scored 13 points, while post players Jeromy Rodriguez and Mladen Armus combined for nine assists.

Kameron Gibson led the Catamounts (7-24, 4-14) with 23 points. Other leaders for Western included Marcus Thomas with 15 points and Marc Gosselin with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

ETSU hit 28 of 46 attempts (60.9 percent) from the field, including 9 of 17 (52.9 percent) from 3-point range. It was needed as the Bucs struggled at the free-throw line, converting 16-of-32 attempts.

"You put a lot of pressure on the offense when you go 16 of 32 from the free-throw line," Forbes said. "That continually puts pressure on you to play offense at a high level and to defend. Something has to change or we're not going to win three games in a row (at the SoCon tournament)."

The Bucs held advantages in most statistical categories, outscoring the Catamounts 38-24 in the paint, 23-12 off turnovers, 12-4 in fast break points and 35-17 off the bench. For only the third time this season, however, ETSU was outrebounded. The other two times that happened were losses at Wofford and Illinois.


Despite playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd listed at 5,520, the Bucs fell behind 9-2 in the opening minutes. ETSU responded with seven straight points to tie and neither team created much distance over rest of the half. Tisdale came up with a steal and layup with five seconds left in the half for a 34-31 ETSU lead at the break.

"We didn't start out with any energy. I don't know why," Hodges said. "We came out in the second half and we knew were in a dogfight."

It wasn't until the final five minutes of the game that the Bucs pulled away. A by-product of the 32 free-throw attempts meant that Western's post players Carlos Dotson and Gosselin fouled out of the game.

"We went to the small lineup with about 10 minutes left in second half," Forbes said. "We played Jeromy and then Mladen at the five. We spread all five and Bo did a good job putting pressure on them by getting to the rim."


ETSU romped to an easy victory in the team's previous meeting 91-69 at Western when Patrick Good had a school-record 11 3-point goals and a career-high 35 points. Plagued by a hip injury, Good played 16 minutes and scored three points, all coming on free throws in the final minute.

Matt Halvorsen from Kingsport had eight points for the Catamounts. Unlike football, where Western and ETSU have made for one of the most competitive rivalries in the Southern Conference, the Bucs have dominated the Catamounts on the basketball floor, now winning 25 of the last 26 games in the series.

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