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Bucs didn't have to wait long for chance at revenge against Mercer

Joe Avento • Feb 8, 2020 at 9:00 AM

The beauty of East Tennessee State’s basketball schedule turned out to be a coincidence.

The Bucs lost to Mercer, 71-55, on Jan. 29. Eleven days later, they get their chance at revenge. A scheduling quirk has the two teams playing again Saturday at 4:30 p.m. inside Hawkins Arena in Macon, Georgia.

“We got a bad taste in our mouth about that one,” ETSU’s Tray Boyd said. “That’s a good team so we’re going to come out and execute the game plan and hopefully come out with a W.”

The Bucs enter the game tied for first place in the SoCon with Furman at 9-2. They’re 20-4 overall, the fifth consecutive season with at least 20 wins. That’s the first time that has ever been accomplished in the program’s history.

To get to 21 this weekend, they’ll have to figure out what in the heck hit them when Mercer blew them off their home court. The Bears out-shot the Bucs, out-rebounded them and out-hustled them.

“We have to come in and be ready for a dogfight,” said ETSU’s Daivien Williamson, who had 14 points and 10 assists in ETSU’s win over Chattanooga on Wednesday night. “It’s going to be tough, but we believe in ourselves. We can get the job done. We play every game like it’s our last. They beat us but we can get them back. We have to keep a chip on our shoulder.”

The result was in the midst of the Bears’ six-game winning streak. It ended when Mercer had a chance to help ETSU in the SoCon standings but laid an egg in a 79-57 loss to Furman, a game that kept the Paladins tied for first.

“It’s going to be a hard game,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “They whipped our tails. We’re going to have to have some pride. We have to come back and play better. Credit to them. They out-executed us and our-defended us.”

TRAY HEATS UP

Boyd overcame an 0-for-6 first half against Chattanooga to score 18 points and lead the Bucs to what turned into an easy win. The senior guard finished 5 of 7 on 3-pointers.

“They tell me you can miss five, 10 in a row and then you make the next 10 in a row,” Boyd said. “You have to have a shooter’s mentality, a short-term memory. That’s what I kept doing.”

Some of Boyd’s shots were from well beyond the line. He was in such a zone, all he saw was the rim, not the 3-point line or the defender.

“I know they’re going to run me off the 3-point line,” he said. “I work on my long threes all the time. I just shot it in rhythm. I just shot it. I didn’t look down. I just shot it with confidence.”

Bo Hodges finished the Chattanooga game with 16 points, making for an interesting statistic. Hodges and Boyd are tied for the ETSU scoring lead at 13.5 points per game. They have each scored 325 points. Interestingly enough, they each have 36 steals as well.

SCOUTING THE BEARS

The Bears, under first-year coach Greg Gary, are 12-12 overall, 6-5 in the SoCon.

Djordje Dimitrijevic leads Mercer in scoring at 17.5 points per game. Ethan Stair averages 15.3 points and 8.9 rebounds. The two guards killed the Bucs with Dimitrijevic scoring 18 points and Stair getting 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Dimitrijevic missed the Bears’ win over The Citadel on Feb. 1 with an illness and went 1 for 9 on 3-pointers in a six-point effort against Furman.

AFTER MERCER

The Bucs return home Wednesday for a game against The Citadel. They also play at VMI on Feb. 15.

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