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Bucs look for ninth consecutive victory against Chattanooga

Joe Avento • Jan 25, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Steve Forbes knows a thing or two about rivalries and he says his team will have no trouble getting motivated for its next outing.

East Tennessee State plays host to Chattanooga in a Southern Conference basketball game and it’s a game each school’s fans circle on the calendar every season.

“I think our guys get up for it because our fans are up for it,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “You walk in the building and there’s a lot of energy. They know the past history of the series.”

Tipoff is set for 4 p.m at Freedom Hall.

The Mocs lead the series 47-41 and only seven points separate the teams during that time.

ETSU has won eight games in a row against the Mocs, including all three meetings last season. Chattanooga’s last win against the Bucs came in the 2016 SoCon tournament championship game.

“Rivalries sometimes go this way when teams go on a streak and then the other team goes on a streak,” Forbes said. “You can’t look behind. We just have to keep looking ahead. We have to stay focused on one at a time and now all of our attention is on UTC.”

The Bucs come in 17-3 overall and leading the SoCon with a 6-1 mark. Forbes says a lot of that success is due to his team’s even-keel approach to everything.

“Sometimes you have a team that gets a little too confident after a win or too down after a loss,” he said. “This team isn’t like that. Even when we were going through that stretch where we had trouble scoring, I didn’t see that in practice. I think that has a lot to do with their makeup and their mentality. They have a really good attitude toward each other and toward playing.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us. We’ve done well, but we have to finish. If we can finish, we have a chance to have a special year.”

ETSU is 11-0 at home.

STILL NO JEROMY

The Bucs will be without senior forward Jeromy Rodriguez for the fifth consecutive game. Rodriguez suffered an injury to the foot he had surgically repaired before the season. He has been in a boot and a recent MRI showed a stress reaction.

He is expected to miss at least two more weeks.

ABOUT THE MOCS

Chattanooga’s roster has seven players, including two of its three leading scorers, with Division I experience at other schools.

Matt Ryan, a 6-foot-7 graduate transfer who previously played at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, leads the Mocs at 14.5 points per game.

Junior guard David Jean-Baptiste averages 13.5 and Arizona State transfer Ramon Villa, a 6-foot-8, 242-pound junior, averages 11.1 points and a team-leading 5.5 rebounds.

The roster also has transfers from Maryland, West Virginia, Cleveland State, Wright State and South Florida.

Lamont Paris, in his third season at Chattanooga, has molded the team into a dangerous bunch. The Mocs (12-7 overall, 3-3 in the SoCon) made 17 3-pointers in a convincing win over Wofford and put a 105-67 beating on Samford.

“They’re a scary team,” Forbes said. “They have great size, starting inside with Villa. He can score around the basket. They take care of the ball. They’ve done a really good job each year of building. I think it’s going to be a tough game.”

COME EARLY

Because a large crowd is expected, the doors at Freedom Hall will open at 2:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than usual.

FAN APPRECIATION

The game is designated as part of ETSU’s Fan Appreciation Day.

Players will be available for autographs after the game, souvenir cups will be in all the cupholders in the stands, team posters will be given away and a limited number of headbands will be handed out.

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