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Bucs looking for signature win at LSU

Joe Avento • Dec 18, 2019 at 3:45 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Steve Forbes has beaten a couple of Power Five schools in Georgia Tech and Mississippi State during his tenure as East Tennessee State’s men’s basketball coach. He’s hoping it’s time for another one.

ETSU plays at LSU on Wednesday night (7 p.m., SEC Network) and the Bucs feel they have a chance to get one of those wins that get people talking — even if briefly — about their program.

“It would be great,” Forbes said. “It’s a great opportunity. LSU’s got a really good team. They’re big and athletic.”

ETSU (9-2) — coming off a win over NAIA Milligan on Sunday — is playing its second game against a major conference opponent. The Bucs gave Kansas a bit of a scare last month.

“It’s a chance to measure ourselves where we’re at a little later in the season,” Forbes said. “I thought we had a good effort at Kansas. Now we get to see where we’re at about a month later playing a team like LSU.”

ETSU lost its last road game at North Dakota State, ending its five-game winning streak.

“It humbled us and we just want to get back to where we’re playing ETSU basketball,” said guard Tray Boyd. “It showed us that we’re beatable and we have to go out there and play with a chip on our shoulder. It’s time to get one. And it’s time to win the rest of them.”

The Tigers (7-2) suffered two-point losses to VCU and Utah State. They’re 6-0 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and have won four in a row, including a 109-59 victory over Northwestern State in their last outing.

The storied program that produced Pete Maravich, Shaquille O’Neal, Bob Pettit and Chris Jackson had a return to glory of sorts last year when LSU went 28-7, won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and advanced to the Sweet 16.

Former Chattanooga coach Will Wade is in his third season as the Tigers’ coach and went 2-1 against ETSU while at Chattanooga.

“We know their team will be big and physical and very talented,” Forbes said. “We’ll have to play very well to have a chance to beat them. We’ll have to cut down on mistakes and stay in the game. We have to get off to a good start.

“We’ve got tough kids, mature guys. I think they’ll go in and battle.”

ABOUT LSU

Skylar Mays, a 6-foot-4 senior, is the Tigers’ leading scorer with an average of 16.0 points per game.

LSU has four other double- digit scorers. Emmitt Williams, a 6-6, 230-pound sophomore, averages 15.4 points and 7.9 rebounds and 6-6, 240-pound sophomore Darius Day averages 14.2 points. Freshman Trendon Watford is at 13.1 and sophomore Javonte Smart is at 10.9. Day leads the country in making 89.2% of his 2-point shots.

LSU lost Tremont Waters, Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams to the NBA from last year.

The Tigers have won 15 consecutive nonconference games at home, a stretch that dates to 2017 when this year’s Duke killer, Stephen F. Austin, beat LSU.

AFTER LSU

The Bucs will return home to take on Cleveland State on Saturday before closing out the 2019 portion of the schedule Dec. 29 with a home game against Mars Hill.

They won’t have to wait long after the calendar changes to get back to action. Wofford, fresh off its second win over North Carolina, pays a visit to Freedom Hall on Jan. 1 at 4 p.m.