East Tennessee State’s basketball team won its 15th consecutive game Saturday, pounding rival Chattanooga 81-61 in front of a sellout crowd of 6,149 at Freedom Hall.
“It’s amazing to play in front of the best fans in the SoCon,” said ETSU guard Desonta Bradford, who led the team with 22 points. “We say that all the time. The crowd really gets us into it and once they get going, this is a tough place to play.”
The Bucs improved to 21-4 overall, 12-0 in the Southern Conference. They haven’t lost since Dec. 16.
“I don’t really talk to them about it,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said of the streak. “But it is a great thing. It’s not like 15 losses in a row.”
ETSU, which has won 19 of its last 20 games, gets a week of rest before attempting to tie the school record of 16 wins in a row Saturday at Virginia Military Institute.
“They have a good team,” Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris said. “They’re experienced and they know their roles.”
JURKIN’S HUGE DAY
While Bradford was leading the way again, he got plenty of help, and nobody provided more of it than Peter Jurkin. ETSU’s 7-foot center finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“I tell him all the time, nobody can guard him,” Bradford said. “He’s a crazy matchup. Seven feet and can shoot the ball and post up. He’s got a nice touch around the rim. Keep being you, Pete. Keep doing what you do.”
Jurkin made the Bucs’ first basket, a 3-pointer from the top the key. He attempted two more later, but missed on both.
“I was wide open and I didn’t know what to do with the ball because I never have that chance to be open like that,” Jurkin said.
The Bucs’ big man had made 5 of 11 from 3-point range coming into the game.
“He can shoot that shot,” Forbes said. “After three, though, it’s maybe time to put it away. He made the first one and got us going, got the crowd going. It’s not like he missed the other two badly.”
Jalan McCloud had 16 points, making 6 of 7 from the field, while David Burrell added 14.
Bradford made 10 of 16 shots as the Bucs connected on 56.7 percent from the field. He added six rebounds.
The Mocs fell to 8-17, 2-10 in the SoCon.
Rodney Chatman had 26 points and singlehandedly kept the game from getting further out of hand.
Joshua Phillips had 12 rebounds. Kingsport’s Makale Foreman finished with four points for the Chattanooga. He missed all five of his 3-point tries.
HONORING THE PAST
ETSU honored the 1967-68 team during the game. Those Bucs beat Florida State in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16.
“Those guys were a tremendous inspiration to our team,” Forbes said. “Just to have Tommy Woods take the time to speak to our team about how impactful the experience was on him to be the first black player to play here in 1963. I think it really affected my team. His words were inspirational.”
Bradford, who hadn’t beaten Chattanooga during his freshman or sophomore years, seemed genuinely pleased to get a second consecutive sweep of the Mocs.
“It’s been amazing to me,” he said. “To go back to back years and sweep them is a good feeling.
SHE SAID YES
During the “kiss cam” promotion, two ETSU fans in the stands became engaged. Rusty Harrison popped the question and his new fiancee Stephanie said yes.
SPEAKING OF STREAKS
While Forbes was finishing his postgame news conference, he reminded the media that he’s familiar with the pressure of winning streaks.
“I’ve done 35 before,” he said referring to the Wichita State team that went 35-0 before losing to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.