After having their 16 game winning streak and undefeated Socon record broken by UNCG on Monday the Bucs were in need of a back bounce win. They got that win with a convincing eleven point victory over Western Carolina. The game was never really in question for ETSU who built an 18 point first half lead and later extended that lead to 23 points in the 2nd half.
ETSU got a big boost from Devontavius Payne who scored a game high of 22 points off of 6-7 shooting from the 3-point line. Payne who has been the 6th man for ETSU most of the year got the start over Jalan McCloud who had been feeling ill before the game. ETSU also got a big boost from the two freshmen, Bo Hodges and Mladen Armus. Hodges scored 17 points in 17 minutes, making 6 of 7 from the field, including a nice alley-opp dunk in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, Mladen Armus was dominating the boards by grabbing a game high 10 rebounds, including 6 offensive ones.
As a team ETSU held Western Carolina to just 38% shooting, while ETSU shot 47% from the field and 45% from the 3-point line. The Bucs dominated the boards by grabbing 44 compared to just 24 from WCU. The Bucs also got back to sharing the ball with 16 assists, something they failed to do against UNCG. The only real weak spot from the Bucs in this game was turnovers. The Bucs committed 22 turnovers for the game which is partly why the final margin wasn’t larger than 11 points.
ETSU is now finished with road games for the rest of the season, the final three regular season games will be in the friendly confines of Freedom Hall. The Bucs finish the conference road schedule by going 8-1 and have won 11 total road games for the year. That number is tied for the most in all of college basketball.
Dominance over Western Carolina
The Bucs have now won 23 of the last 24 games against Western Carolina. ETSU also hasn’t lost a regular season game against WCU since 1998. The last loss came in a Socon tournament quarterfinal game in 2015, which happened to be former coach Murry Bartow’s last game with ETSU.
Help from UNCG
With the win Saturday the Bucs continued to have a hold on first place in the Socon and thanks to a loss from UNCG at Mercer the Bucs now have a 2.5 game lead over UNCG. A win on Tuesday versus The Citadel and the Bucs can atleast clinch a share of the regular season title. However, if the Bucs want to clinch a #1 seed in the Socon Tournament they will need to win at least 2 of those 3 games since UNCG currently has the tiebreaker over ETSU.
Final 3 games
ETSU will close out the regular season this week with games against The Citadel on Tuesday, Wofford on Friday and Furman on Sunday. All three games will be at Freedom Hall. The Bucs will be looking to clinch the regular season title during this stretch, so come out and Fill Freedom for each game!