It’s one way to win.
East Tennessee State was handled by Northern Kentucky in a Nov. 10 road matchup in Highland Heights. On Wednesday night, the Buccaneers solved the problems in a convincing 84-71 takedown of the Norse at Freedom Hall.
The Bucs improved to 5-3 overall while Northern Kentucky, which previously had two losses by a combined total of four points, fell to 6-3.
“I thought we played well from start to finish,” said Bucs’ head coach Steve Forbes. “We really concentrated on not turning the ball over. That was a major-league problem when we played them the first time (an 81-63 loss with 20 turnovers). We only turned it over 10 times tonight, and I thought that was paramount to winning the game.
“I think we’re going to look back on this game, and it’s going to be a really good win.”
Killer Bs: Bench, Balance and Bo
ETSU had seven players in, or threatening, double-figure point totals. Devontavius Payne led the way with 16 points off the bench. He said the formula was simple.
“We stayed with the game plan and played hard,” said Payne, who also had four assists and three steals. “We just moved the ball around. We’ve got confidence in our teammates.”
Then there was Bo Hodges. The smooth freshman settled into the flow and eventually racked up 14 points and three blocked shots. He also added a Freedom Hall-rocking alley-oop slam off a feed from Payne.
“You’re starting to see him evolve as a player,” said Forbes. “He’s really starting to come into his own. And he made some big defensive plays. That blocked shot on a three by Drew McDonald was a heck of an athletic play.”
Hodges played 29 minutes, but didn’t seem to lose a step.
“In my first game I got tired super fast,” said Hodges. “Now everything is slowing down more for me.”
Jason Williams added eight points for the Bucs, who had 42 points off the bench. Also producing were starters Jalan McCloud (12 points, 6 assists), Peter Jurkin (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Desonta Bradford (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists).
Defending your home turf
As good as this one looked offensively for the Bucs, the victory was defensively based as well. ETSU allowed only two small stretches of sustained offensive success by the Norse.
Northern Kentucky had only 28 first-half points and its total of 71 was the second-lowest output of the season.
“I thought we did a really good job and defended well,” said Forbes. “I think it’s a barometer to show where we can be and where we can go.”
The defense was strong even with the terrific paint effort of Carson Williams. The Northern Kentucky post player finished with 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field.
Lavone Holland II added 14 points while McDonald totaled 10.
The Bucs made 31 of 52 shots from the field for 60 percent. …
ETSU had seven blocked shots to just one for the Norse. …
The rebounds (ETSU, 29-25) were basically even.
The Bucs play host to Hiwassee College on Sunday at 2 p.m.