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Bucs put winning streak the line against VMI

Joe Avento • Updated Jan 12, 2018 at 6:26 PM

It’ll be a quick turnaround for the East Tennessee State basketball team, which has been able to handle just about anything thrown at it for the past month.

Virginia Military Institute comes to Freedom Hall for a 4 p.m. tipoff on Saturday. It’s less than two days after the Bucs’ last game, a rousing 68-58 victory over UNC Greensboro.

“I told them we have the 24-hour rule,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said of the time allowed to enjoy the win over Greensboro. “This time, it was about six hours. We have a quick turnaround and have to have a short memory.”

The Bucs, tied for the Southern Conference lead, have won seven games in a row and 10 of their last 11 to push their record to 12-4. VMI comes in 5-9 overall, 0-3 in the SoCon, and has lost its last four games.

“VMI almost beat Greensboro so we have to have total focus,” Forbes said. “They’ll have our full attention.”

RED-HOT START

The Bucs are off to a 4-0 start in the SoCon and have won all four games by double-digit margins. The last time they did that was the 1990-91 season.

They have quite a way to go to equal the school-record conference winning streak. The 2003-04 team won its first 15 SoCon games before losing to the College of Charleston in the regular-season finale. That team went on to win the conference tournament.

SOCON RACE

ETSU and Furman are the only unbeaten teams in league play. The Paladins won at Chattanooga on Wednesday and play at Wofford on Saturday.

Four league teams appear in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for the second straight week, tied with the West Coast Conference for the most schools in the poll. ETSU (5) and Furman (6) each made big jumps to move into the top 10, while Wofford (17) and UNCG (18) are both in the top 20.

SCOUTING THE KEYDETS

VMI last played a week ago and threw quite a scare into UNCG in a 63-61 defeat. Bubba Parham leads team in scoring at 13.1 points per game. Austin Vereen averages 10.2.

The Keydets average 66.8 points per game, the lowest output among SoCon teams.

BY THE NUMBERS

ETSU is the only SoCon team with four players averaging at least five rebounds per game. Desonta Bradford leads the way at 5.8 and he’s followed by Peter Jurkin at 5.4, David Burrell at 5.3 and Mladen Arums at 5.1.

The Bucs have two of the top five shooters in the league, based on field goal percentage. Freshman Bo Hodges is second at 62.4 percent, while Jurkin is fifth at 59.1. Furman’s Matt Rafferty leads the league at 65.3.

LEAGUE LEADERS

After having 5,038 fans attend the UNCG game on Thursday night, ETSU’s average attendance is 3,580. That leads the SoCon and is the only school averaging more than 3,000.

FAMILIAR FRIENDS

Third-year VMI coach Dan Earl was an assistant to former ETSU coach Ed DeChellis at Penn State and Navy.

Earl’s Keydets went 9-21 and 6-24 in his first two seasons at the Lexington, Virginia school.

HEROES’ DAY

Saturday’s game has been designated Heroes’ Day and all military, fire, police, EMS and medical service personnel will receive a free ticket.

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