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North Dakota State up next for Bucs

Joe Avento • Dec 7, 2019 at 1:58 AM

Tray Boyd is thankful he plays a sport that takes place indoors. He’s especially thankful this weekend as the East Tennessee State basketball team prepares to play at North Dakota State.

“Coming out of high school, I always wanted to go somewhere far, but I never thought about going to North Dakota,” Boyd said. “I am going to wear a big coat. I’ll tell you that. A big coat.

“It’s a business trip. As much as we would love it to be a vacation, it’s a business trip. So we’re just trying to go up there and get a W. We have to stay focused and we can’t let the cold get into our minds.”

Tipoff at Scheels Center in Fargo, North Dakota, is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. (EST).

The Bucs have won five games in a row and are 8-1, their best start since the 1990-91 season.

North Dakota State comes in with a 5-4 record and is coming off a 71-60 loss to Indiana State. The Bison have been to the NCAA Tournament twice during Coach Dave Richman’s five years at the helm.

“It’s a tough trip,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “They’re good. It’s a team that went to the NCAA Tournament last year and they have the majority of their players back.”

ETSU is coming off a 96-84 victory over The Citadel, a game in which Boyd scored 25 points, including 23 in the first half. He had 11 in a row at one point.

“I came in and just brought that spark,” he said. “We needed somebody to make shots and I came in and made mine.”

Boyd is the Bucs’ leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game, yet the senior guard hasn’t been in the starting lineup at all this season.

“I like coming off the bench,” said Boyd, who is third on the team in minutes played. “I get to see the flow of the game. I get to see my matchup, how he’s playing, if he’s aggressive. So I don’t mind coming off the bench.”

ETSU NUMBERS

Seven ETSU players average more than eight points per game. Bo Hodges is right on Boyd’s heels for the team lead at 13.4.

Daivien Williamson is at 10.7 and Jeromy Rodriguez averages 10.4 and 8.0 rebounds per game. Rodriguez is coming off a 26-point, 16-rebound effort against The Citadel.

MIRROR IMAGE

Both teams spread the wealth when it comes to scoring.

ETSU has had six different players lead the team in scoring in the nine games, including four different ones in the last four games.

The Bison have had five different leading scorers in nine games, with only Vinnie Shahid and Cameron Hunter leading the team multiple times.

Both teams can rebound with the Bucs getting seven more boards per game than their opponent and the Bison five.

BIG DIFFERENCE

One aspect of the game where the teams differ is taking care of the ball. North Dakota State averages 9.9 turnovers a game, the fourth fewest in the country.

ETSU, meanwhile, turns it over more than 15 times a game and has been susceptible to full-court pressure at times this season.

ABOUT THE BISON

Shahid, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, averages 13.7 points per game to lead the team.

North Dakota State basically has a five-guard starting lineup. Sam Griesel, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, is listed as a guard-forward on the roster. The other four starters are guards.

FOOTBALL CRAZY

North Dakota State is opening the FCS playoffs on Saturday and will play host to Nicholls State at 3:30 p.m. (EST). The team plays in the Fargodome, where it averages more than 18,000 fans.

The Bison has won seven national championships since 2011. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is an alum.

LAST MEETING

ETSU won last year’s game at Freedom Hall, 79-61. Isaiah Tisdale was the Bucs’ leading scorer with 18 points.

LOOKING AHEAD

After returning home, the Bucs will get a week off before playing host to Milligan College on Dec. 15. They travel to LSU on Dec. 18.

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