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ETSU, Citadel heading in different directions

Joe Avento • Feb 12, 2020 at 9:00 AM

East Tennessee State is trying to win a championship. The Citadel is simply trying to win a game.

The two teams, who meet on the basketball court at Freedom Hall on Wednesday night, are seemingly headed in opposite directions and the Bucs would like to keep it that way.

“We want to win every game,” said ETSU’s leading scorer Tray Boyd. “We want to win regardless of who we play. We don’t take anybody lightly.”

Tip-off is set for 7. It’s one of only three home games left for the Bucs.

While ETSU (21-4 overall, 10-2 Southern Conference) is holding a share of first place, the Bulldogs have yet to win a conference game and come in on a 12-game losing streak.

ETSU won the first meeting, 96-84, in a game that felt a lot closer than the final score.

Jeromy Rodriguez, who is expected to miss his 10th game in a row with a foot injury, had 26 points and 16 rebounds in that one.

“That was a long time ago,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “They’ve come in and beat us before one time, so we’ll have to be ready.”

Interestingly,  Boyd had a spectacular first half that night, scoring 23 of his 25 points before halftime. That went against what has turned into the norm for Boyd, whose second-half antics have rescued the Bucs in the past two games when he has scored all 33 of his points in the final 20 minutes.

Boyd leads the Bucs at 13.6 points per game. Bo Hodges is close at 13.4 and could have stayed closer had he not fouled out in a strange series of events during ETSU’s last game, a win at Mercer. Hodges picked up his third, fourth and fifth fouls in a 14-second span and had fouled out before anybody knew what had happened.

With 12:29 left to play, the Bucs were without one of their most dynamic players, but managed to hold on and win.

IN THE POLLS

ETSU has moved up to third in the Mid-Major poll, behind Gonzaga and Northern Iowa. The Bucs are receiving a mention in the Associated Press poll’s “also receving votes” portion once again after falling out last week.

They also got a vote in the coaches’ poll  

SCOUTING THE CITADEL

The Bulldogs are 6-17 overall, 0-12 in the SoCon.

Kaiden Rice is The Citadel’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. He had 30 against ETSU in the teams’ earlier meeting. Kaelon Harris averages 13.2 and Fletcher Abee 11.8.

The Bulldogs have been hurt by injuries. Hayden Brown, who scored 26 points in an early-season game against Georgia, has been out with a hamstring injury. Guards Jackson Gammons and Jerry Higgins and forward Brady Spence have also been out. In addition, graduate transfer Eddie Davis has left the team.

Brown hasn’t played since the last time the two teams met. He had 12 points in 15 minutes against ETSU.

HEROES’ DAY

The game is ETSU’s annual Heroes’ Day promotion. All service men and women and first responders can attend for free.

SOCON RACE

The Bucs are tied with Furman and assuming both teams take care of business over the next few days, sole possession of first place will be on the line when the Paladins visit Freedom Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 19. After The Citadel, ETSU travels to VMI on Saturday. Furman is at Samford on Wednesday and plays at Chattanooga on Saturday.

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