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No letdown for Bucs in blowout of Vikings

Joe Avento • Dec 21, 2019 at 7:37 PM

JOHNSON CITY — True to their word, the players on the East Tennessee State men’s basketball team didn’t let their big win over LSU go to their heads.

There was no Baton Rouge hangover Saturday when ETSU scored the first 11 points and took care of business while running Cleveland State out of Freedom Hall in an 80-55 nonconference victory.

“I was really proud of our team, the way we handled the success that we had on Wednesday night at LSU,” said ETSU coach Steve Forbes. “The focus was outstanding coming back here and getting ready for Cleveland State.

“I wasn’t surprised. This team’s makeup is really good. They were really focused. It’s a credit to the maturity of our team.”

The Bucs (11-2) are off to their best start since they opened 14-1 during the 1990-91 season. ETSU has won 10 nonconference games for the second year in a row and the sixth time in school history. Among them was Wednesday night’s 74-63 victory over LSU.

“I don’t think we had a letdown,” said Tray Boyd, who led the Bucs with 16 points. “We just came to play, trying to keep on the same track and trying to stay focused.”

ETSU never trailed and led for all but the first 40 seconds. The Bucs are 7-0 at home and have led for 264 out of a possible 280 minutes in those games.

“You have to give it the fans,” Boyd said. “The fans are, obviously, the best in the SoCon and they bring it every night regardless of the situation, regardless of who we play. That feeds us.”

Cleveland State (4-9) stayed close for much of the first half after the initial run. ETSU led 42-29 at halftime and began to pull away In the second half. The biggest lead was 29 points.

Jeromy Rodriguez added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Daivien Williamson had 14 points and four assists.

DePaul transfer Algevon Eichelberger had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead Cleveland State. Torrey Patton had 14 points.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Cleveland State used a full-court press from the get-go and the Bucs didn’t let it get to them. ETSU broke the pressure continually and finished with 10 turnovers while causing 20.

“We’ve been practicing on that,” Boyd said. “We probably had a couple of turnovers there, but we figured it out.”

HIGH PRAISE

Forbes had some complimentary things to say about ETSU forward Joe Hugley, who played less than three minutes Saturday.

“I’ve been coaching 31 years and I don’t think I’ve ever coached a better teammate than Joe Hugley,” Forbes said. “It’s amazing his positive talk on the bench. He didn’t get to play a lot today, but you would never know it. He’s coaching, he’s talking to the players, he’s encouraging. It’s a rare thing.”

Hugley is a graduate transfer from Central Connecticut State, which is 0-12 this season.

“You know we remind him of that,” Forbes said. “I’m the king of that. I remind them about a lot of things they don’t want to know or remember.”

UP NEXT

Forbes was headed home to Iowa for Christmas after the game. All of the players, except for Lucas N’Guessan, are traveling for the break.

N’Guessan, who is from the Netherlands, will stay in town. Rodriguez, who is from the Dominican Republic, will travel to New Jersey where he has family.

The players will return to Johnson City on Dec. 26 to begin preparing for their final nonconference game, Dec. 29 against Mars Hill.

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