Bo Hodges didn’t need a lot of playing time on Sunday to do a lot of playing.
Hodges, a freshman forward for East Tennessee State, scored 18 points in 10 minutes as the Bucs rolled past Hiwassee, 94-48, in a nonconference basketball game at Freedom Hall.
“I’m getting comfortable and everything’s slowing down for me,” Hodges said. “That’s fun. My team has confidence in me and that’s also fun.”
Hodges had most of his fun when ETSU coach Steve Forbes put on a full-court press late in the first half. A flurry of steals led to a 25-4 run for a 48-17 halftime lead.
During a remarkable stretch of 113 seconds, Hodges scored 13 points on four dunks, two layups and a free throw.
It all started with a steal by Peter Jurkin, who threw the ball to Jermaine Long. Long found Hodges breaking to the hoop for a dunk. Hodges stole an inbounds pass under the basket and dunked again.
Suddenly, the Tigers couldn’t get the ball past midcourt as the ETSU defenders were relentless.
Four steals — two by Long, one by Desonta Bradford and one by Hodges — led to four more baskets by Hodges, who went 8 for 9 from the field Sunday and has made 80 percent of his shots over the past three games while averaging 17.3 points.
“He’s emerging as a talent,” said Forbes, whose team improved to 6-3 with its fourth consecutive victory. “He’s got confidence. He has a really high basketball IQ. It’s exciting for him to play that way. I hope for our fans, it’s going to be exciting for the next four years.”
By the time the final horn sounded, the Bucs had 22 steals, four shy of the school — and Southern Conference — record set in 2004 against Union.
“We wanted to get the intensity of the game up,” Hodges said. “And that’s what we did.”
ETSU forced 27 turnovers against an overmatched opponent. Bradford and Payne each had four steals, while Long and Andre Edwards had three apiece.
“We went to pressure and obviously they didn’t handle it very well,” Forbes said. “I think we have a team that can press. We just haven’t used it a lot.”
In addition to Hodges’ quick-strike scoring, the success of the press might be the main thing the Bucs get out of Sunday’s game.
“You figure out who to play at what spots when you’re getting ready to press,” Forbes said. “Some guys are better at it than others. We’ll go back and look at who was in the game when that occurred.”
Spreading the wealth
Only one player on the ETSU roster played more than 20 minutes. Jason Williams played 23 and finished with 12 points. All 13 players who dressed played at least 10 minutes and all scored.
Dillon Reppart was the last player to score, swishing a 3-pointer in the final minute. He played 14 minutes, all in the second half, as Forbes was generous with playing time.
“Maybe the first time in my career I’ve had 13 guys play double-digit minutes,” Forbes said. “You have a game like this and everybody goes home with a smile, ready for finals.”
Interestingly, everybody on the team played more minutes than Hodges.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how much I played,” Hodges said. “I knew it wasn’t a lot.”
By the numbers
Freshman center Mladen Armus had 10 points and seven rebounds for ETSU, which shot 47 percent after a 56-percent first half. Long finished with six assists and eight points in 14 minutes.
For much of the game, it appeared as though the Tigers would outrebound the Bucs, but the home team wound up ahead 47-46. Hiwassee managed 16 offensive rebounds.
The game didn’t count on Hiwassee’s record thanks to an NCAA rule that allows lower-level teams to count games against Division I schools as exhibitions.
Long range, longshot
The Bucs, who came into the game ranked last in the Southern Conference in 3-point shooting percentage, went 7 for 25 from the arc. Their accuracy fell to just under 30 percent.
The attendance was 3,321 for a game many expected to be a blowout. ETSU is averaging 3,267 fans per game, tops in the SoCon.
“I thought we started the game a little flat,” Forbes said. “And we used to go through this at places like Wichita and Tennessee, too, where you have pretty good crowd support. Sometimes you wait for the fans to get you going. That’s not their job. Our job is to get the fans going.”
The Bucs get five days off before playing at 13th-ranked Xavier on Saturday. Then they head to Detroit for the return game of a home-and-home series on Dec. 19.