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Bucs going for 15 in a row against rival Mocs

Joe Avento • Updated Feb 2, 2018 at 6:23 PM

The third-longest winning streak in school history has put a target on the back of the East Tennessee State basketball team, and so far the Bucs have been up to the challenge.

They go for their 15th win in a row Saturday when rival Chattanooga visits Freedom Hall for a 4 p.m. tip-off. A sellout crowd is expected in the arena where ETSU leads the Southern Conference in attendance.

“We’re going to get everybody’s best shots,” Bucs coach Steve Forbes said. “We’ll get a great shot from Chattanooga on Saturday. I promise you that. We just have to be ready to go.”

The Bucs stretched their winning streak to 14 games Thursday night with a 96-76 victory over Samford. They’re trying to join the 1952-53 ETSU team at 15. The school record is 16, set in 2003-04.

“It’s not going to rule our world,” Forbes said. “We’re not going to run from it. What we’ll do at the end of the year, we’ll add them up and see how many we can get. I think it’s a great thing.”

SPREADING THE WEALTH

During the streak, five players — Desonta Bradford, Jalan McCloud, Devontavius Payne, David Burrell and Peter Jurkin — have led the team in scoring.

“They don’t really care who scores,” Forbes said “They just want to win.”

Bradford has taken his game to another level in recent weeks, scoring 23 and 31 points in his last two outings.

FIGURING IT OUT

When Forbes was talking about the turnover on his roster from last season, a 14-game winning streak became even more impressive. He lost T.J. Cromer, A.J. Merriweather, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Tevin Glass, setting up what appeared to be a rebuilding year.

Then when the team opened the season losing three of its first five games, some observers were a bit worried.

“We had guys returning just playing different roles,” Forbes said. “T.J. wasn’t here anymore. Hanner and Tevin weren’t walking back in the door. A.J. wasn’t coming in. These guys had to step into those roles. They were very capable of doing it and I knew it. They just had to believe it. They had to do it when the lights were on.”

PLAYING HARD

Samford coach Scott Padgett said ETSU played harder than any other team in the league. He was obviously impressed with the stretch of basketball the Bucs have put together.

“I’m proud of that,” Forbes said. “Our first thing of our identity is ‘Play hard, play smart, play together.’ We don’t always play too smart, but we always play together and we always play hard.

“I think a lot is because we have depth and our guys like each other.”

SCOUTING CHATTANOOGA

The Mocs, under first-year coach Lamont Paris, are 8-16 overall, 2-9 in the SoCon and tied for last place with Virginia Military Institute. They’re coming off a 70-68 loss at Western Carolina.

Nat Dixon averages 15.8 points per game to lead Chattanooga. Makinde London averages 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Kingsport’s Makale Foreman has started all 24 games for the Mocs and is second on the team in minutes played. He’s averaging 9.4 points per game. He had 30 points against The Citadel on Jan. 13.

The Bucs are going for their second consecutive season sweep of the Mocs. They won the earlier meeting this season, 85-66, in Chattanooga.

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