The ETSU men's basketball team bounced back from their loss to Belmont by taking a fifteen point win over the Camels of Campbell University on Wednesday night. The Bucs used predominantly man to man defense to hold Jonathan Rodriguez, the league's fourth leading scorer, to only twelve points on the night and limited him to four of fourteen shooting from the field. Most of the few easy layups that Rodriguez was able to get were a result of the Bucs switching to a zone defense and Rodriguez being able to find open space alone under the basket. The Bucs did need a three point shot by Jocolby Davis from well beyond the arc with the shot clock running down to stem the tide of a Campbell run that had cut an eighteen point Buc lead early in the second half to four points with just under three minutes to play in the game. On Campbell's ensuing possession, the Bucs' Isiah Brown grabbed a steal and Justin Tubbs hit a three pointer off of the turnover to put ETSU back up by ten. That sequence of events changed the momentum of the game as the Bucs added to their lead from there to reach the final margin.
With the win Wednesday night ETSU pulled itself into a three way tie for the conference lead with Jacksonville and Campbell at the midpoint of the conference season. The three conference leaders maintain only a half game advantage over Lipscomb and a game and a half advantage over Rick Byrd's Belmont Bruins team. Murry Bartow and his team must now turn their attention back to the Nashville duo of Lipscomb and Belmont as those teams make their way to Johnson City for games with the Bucs on Saturday and Monday respectively. These games give the Bucs an opportunity to further distance themselves from those perennial Atlantic Sun contenders while trying to keep pace with their conference co-leaders. The Belmont game will certainly be one that Buc fans point to as a measuring stick for this team and its aspirations for a conference championship but Lipscomb is first up on the schedule and Adnan Hodzic and company will certainly present a tough challenge again.
ETSU was able to escape with a win at Lipscomb just this past Thursday on a three point shot in the final seconds by Jarvis Jones. In that game the Bucs were able to hold conference leading scorer Adnan Hodzic to only thirteen points on four of eleven shooting from the field. The Bisons however were able to shoot 48% from three point range over ETSU's defense while shooting less than 40% from the field as a whole and kept themselves in the game with their ability to hit the three point shots. Little has of course changed with Lipscomb's team since the first meeting a week ago. The Bisons have split two games in the interim with a loss to Campbell and a win over Belmont. In each of those games Josh Slater has scored well over his season average with twenty-six points in each game including a twelve of thirteen performance from the free throw line against Belmont. Lipscomb however as a team shot no more than 40% from three point range in either of those games. Were it not for the last second heroics of Jarvis Jones for the Bucs and clutch free throw shooting in the final half minute by Junard Hartley and Jonanthan Rodriguez of Campbell, Lipscomb could very easily be 9-2 in conference play and alone atop the standings.
The keys for the Bucs in winning this upcoming contest with Lipscomb will be to again limit the contributions offensively from Hodzic and Slater, while also reducing the opportunities that Lipscomb has to take open three point shots. Offensively ETSU needs to continue their approach from the Campbell game and use a combination of dribble penetration and inside play to balance their own three point attack. Coach Bartow limited his substitutions in the win over Campbell as several players played well over their average minutes. Davis for one played the entire forty minutes of action after having averaged only just over sixteen minutes per game coming into the contest. This smaller more well defined rotation is likely to continue unless the conditioning of the team dictates otherwise. A convincing win by the Bucs over Lipscomb would provide some much needed momentum and set up an always important game with Belmont on Monday evening.