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ETSU routs VMI for eighth straight win; Bucs only team still undefeated in SoCon

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 9:43 PM

The East Tennessee State men’s basketball team wasn’t looking ahead Saturday afternoon.

That was bad news, extremely bad news, for Virginia Military Institute.

With their attention fully devoted to the task at hand, the Bucs overwhelmed the Keydets for an 89-48 victory at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

On the defensive end alone, ETSU forced 15 turnovers and held the Keydets to just 13 of 50 (26 percent) from the field.

It was the Bucs’ eighth win in a row, the longest streak since coach Steve Forbes took over the program in 2015 and the longest since the 2010-11 team won 10 in a row.

ETSU has won 12 of its last 13 games and is 14-4 overall and 5-0 in the Southern Conference. Following Furman’s 79-70 loss at Wofford on Saturday, the Bucs are the only undefeated team in league play. The Keydets fell to 5-10 and 0-4 after the Bucs didn’t let it become a “trap game” sandwiched between games against UNC-Greensboro and Furman.

“It can be a trap game if you allow it,” Forbes said. “You’re always nervous about these games, but I have a lot of respect for them. Last week, they were down 16 and they came back and almost won. You tell your guys all that, and you hope they listen.”

Team leaders and a milestone

The Bucs certainly listened to Forbes and it showed with their efforts.

Devontavius Payne barely missed a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds. David Burrell also scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Adding more balance, Bo Hodges had 16 points and Desonta Bradley scored 14, becoming the 41st ETSU player in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone for his career.

“I’ve got to give all the glory to the man upstairs who put me in position to do this,” said Bradford, who also had six rebounds and six assists. “And I couldn’t do it without my coaches and teammates. I’m not the type of person to go after things like that, but it’s an honor to put myself up there with some great players.”

Domination

The margin wasn’t even close in many categories.

ETSU outscored VMI 48-16 in the paint, 11-3 in second-chance points, 14-0 on fast-break points and 55-14 off the bench. Another lopsided stat was the number of assists, where the Bucs held a 22-5 advantage.

“That’s great, especially against their zone where you really have to move the ball,” Forbes said. “I thought we had really good movement against the zone. Sometimes when teams play zone, guys just stand around. We ran a lot of our man stuff against the zone and we made their zone shift and it paid off.”

Bubba Parham, with 16 points, and Austin Vereen, 10, were the only VMI players to reach double figures.

With four second-half dunks, two by Burrell and one each for Bradford and Hodges, ETSU finished the game hitting 53.2 percent from the field. The Bucs had 10 players score, which included eight points for Kanaya Obi-Rapu, six from James Harrison and four from Dillon Reppart.

“It’s great. That’s the strength of this team,” Burrell said. “We don’t rely on just one person. Anybody can go out and score at any given moment. Whoever’s night it is, it’s their night and it makes us hard to defend.”

Thoughts with Jalan

ETSU played without Jalan McCloud, who missed the game due to a death in his family. He is expected to be back for Thursday’s game at Furman.

“Our thoughts and prayers with Jalan,” Forbes said. “We didn’t have Jalan. He went home to be with his family and we’re thinking about him. We miss him and we will be glad to get him back.”

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