In a season where the action has stopped and started a few times and the schedule is always changing, East Tennessee State’s men’s basketball team is finally playing games on a regular basis.
“I like it and I think the guys like it,” ETSU coach Jason Shay said. “That’s the only way you determine where you are at. Are you improving? I think we’ve gotten better each game.”
The Bucs’ next outing — Thursday night’s hastily thrown together home game against Columbia International — will be their third game in six days. That’s the kind of flow that could help Shay’s team keep improving.
“The more we get to play, I think we’re starting to find that rhythm a little bit,” Shay said. “We’ve played well at times. We haven’t played well enough to win, but we’re getting better and the only way you can determine that is by playing games.”
Columbia International, an NAIA team that plays in the Appalachian Athletic Conference along with Milligan University, is coming to town in place of USC Aiken, which had to pull out after a positive COVID-19 test.
The Bucs beat Gardner-Webb 65-60 on Tuesday night, improving their record to 2-3.
David Sloan led the way, scoring 16 of his career-high 18 points in the second half. He also had seven of the Bucs’ 17 assists and looked like the player ETSU was hoping to get when he transferred from Kansas State.
Ledarrius Brewer, the Bucs’ leading scorer, said spreading the wealth helped make the team tonight to defend.
“I think what we learned was just playing as a team it makes everything easier, no matter who scores the most points, no matter who’s averaging what,” Brewer said. “Just play as a team and it will all work out. Every game we’re just learning who does what and how to play with each other more.”
TING COLUMBIA INTERNATIONAL
The Rams are led by Corey Benton, a senior guard who averages 26.1 points per game. That ranks 11th in the NAIA.
Columbia International has been one of the busiest teams in college basketball, having played eight official games in addition to four exhibitions against NCAA Division I teams. The team’s record is 5-3.
Among the exhibitions were two losses to Southern Conference teams, 82-66 to Mercer and 96-57 to The Citadel. The Rams, who have scored as many as 118 points in a game and as few as 26, are coming off a loss to Reinhardt in a conference game.
They are also scheduled to play at Appalachian State on Friday night.
Columbia International is coached by Tony Stockman, who played at Clemson and Ohio State and averaged 12.4 points a game during his collegiate career.
SON TIDE LOOMING
The Bucs play at Alabama on Tuesday night. It will be their first game against a Southeastern Conference team since they surprised LSU last season.
AN GAME TELEVISED
The Bucs’ game at Furman, scheduled for Jan. 16, will be televised by ESPNU. The 4 p.m. game will be played at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
It’s one of five Southern Conference games being televised on ESPNU. The others are Wofford at Mercer (Dec. 29), UNC Greensboro at Furman (Jan. 25), Furman at UNC Greensboro (Feb. 10) and Wofford at Samford (Feb. 22).