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Practice time producing results for Bucs

Joe Avento • Updated Jan 2, 2019 at 4:27 AM

If practice does indeed make perfect, it’s no wonder the East Tennessee State basketball team is on a pretty good roll.

ETSU has spent more time on the practice court lately, and the results are beginning to show with a three-game winning streak heading into Thursday night’s Southern Conference home game against Samford.

Between the season opener at Georgia State and the Dec. 15 game at Illinois, the Bucs played 11 games and held 17 practices. Since then, they’ve played three games and had 18 practices.

That’s what a coach can do when school is between semesters and his players have a lot more time on their hands.

“I think some of the issues we had were because we had 10 new guys with no time to practice,” Forbes said. “We just had to prepare for games. I think the new guys, they need more time on the court.

“You don’t have time to do that when you’re playing that many games. And the practices have been good practices. They’ve been focused and bought in. It’s been competitive.”

Forbes has been working his team with a late-morning practice each day and another one in the afternoon. In between, they lift weights.

“I think our teams have done that every year we’ve been here,” Forbes said. “We’ve always gone twice over the break. I think it breaks up the day for them. It keeps them occupied. This is a time of year when nobody is on campus and it can be a little monotonous for them. It’s good for the camaraderie. They see each other a lot.”

Forbes has changed things up in practice as well. He used to take his top eight or nine guys and have them play against everybody else.

“We’re putting our best against our best,” he said. “It makes it more competitive and our practices have been better because of that.”

Before ETSU went to El Paso, Texas, where it won the Sun Bowl tournament, Forbes and his staff spent a day meeting with each player to reinforce their roles on the team. It’s something Forbes has done in three of his four seasons here.

“It’s always after a loss,” he said. “I think that’s helped us, too.”

All the work has added up to a nice run. The Bucs have outscored their last three opponents by 74 points. Included in that was a 23-point victory against a Furman team that had been nationally ranked a week earlier after beating two of last season’s Final Four teams.

ETSU will bring an 11-4 record into Thursday night’s game against Samford, which is also 11-4 despite having three senior starters transfer to big schools.

“I think they’re enjoying defending and making it hard for teams to score,” Forbes said when asked about the key to his team’s recent play. “They share the ball on offense and they really don’t care who the leading scorer is. They find the open man.They’re having fun playing and enjoying each other. I think that’s more important than anything.”

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