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Eagles next test for Bucs

Kelly Hodge • Nov 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM

The East Tennessee State basketball team has had a week to work since opening its season with an 18-point loss at Virginia Tech.

Coach Murry Bartow says there’s been no shortage of things to work on.

“Just a lot of glaring weaknesses,” Bartow said Friday. “Defensively, there are a lot of areas of concern. Offensively, there are a lot of areas of concern. We’ve tried to hone in on them, and we’ve worked hard this week.”

The Bucs will get a pretty good read on their progress today when Tennessee Tech visits the Dome. Tipoff is 4 o’clock.

The Golden Eagles beat the Bucs 83-74 last year in Cookeville. They come to town for the rematch fresh off a 71-69 victory over Coastal Carolina in which senior guard Jud Dillard had a career-high 34 points and 12 rebounds.

“They whipped us good last year,” said Bartow. “This is a different team, but they just beat a pretty good Coastal Carolina team. Dillard is a great player — strong, physical, big motor. He’s one of those really hard mid-major matchups.”

The 6-5, 190-pounder from Atlanta scored 25 points in the season opener, a 107-32 drubbing of an NCCCA team from Arkansas called Crowley’s Ridge.

Last season Dillard averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds for a 19-13 team, including 16 and 6 against the Bucs. He led the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding and was fourth in scoring.

Kevin Murphy did the most damage in the ETSU game, tossing in 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Murphy is now playing in the NBA, with the Utah Jazz.

The Golden Eagles also graduated Zac Swansey, the OVC assists and steals leader, and 7-footer Liam McMorrow, who is playing for the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League with former ETSU star Mike Smith.

The new roster of second-year head coach Steve Payne shows four true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and two transfers.

Bartow also had to reload after losing three double-figure scorers, and the offensive numbers weren’t pretty the first time out. The Bucs shot 38 percent from the field — 3 of 16 from 3-point range — and were 11 of 25 at the foul line in the 80-62 loss in Blacksburg.

“We did a lot of good things, too,” said Bartow, “and I hate to say that about an 18-point loss. But we outrebounded them (39-37) and had 14 offensive rebounds. We didn’t turn the ball over much. And Lester Wilson had a huge game.”

Wilson, the redshirt freshman from Knoxville, came off the bench to lead the Bucs with 20 points and nine rebounds in his college debut. That may have earned him a spot in the starting lineup today, though Bartow wasn’t sure Friday how that will look, especially if Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard isn’t able to play.

The junior forward rolled an ankle in practice Monday and had been a spectator since. He was hoping to practice Friday.

The Bucs will be looking for more from their other junior-college transfer, Hunter Harris. The 6-7, 220-pound forward had a quiet day against the Hokies -- 2 of 5 from the field with six rebounds.

“I have to be honest and say I was a little nervous the first time out,” said Harris, who was a juco All-American last season at Volunteer State. “It’s just going to take awhile for everything to come together, but we’re going to be a really good team. I’m sure of that.”

Today’s matchup will be the 71st between the Bucs and Golden Eagles, who were OVC rivals for many years. The series dates back to 1923, with the Bucs holding a 36-34 advantage.

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