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Bucs find the range in win over Samford

Joe Avento • Jan 15, 2020 at 9:50 PM

It took a while, but East Tennessee State finally found its shooting touch from 3-point range.

The Bucs stayed perfect at home Wednesday night, using a second-half barrage to pull away from Samford for an 88-63 victory in a Southern Conference basketball game at Freedom Hall.

ETSU made 7 of its first 11 shots from 3-point range in the second half to break open a close game.

“It was awfully nice to have the offense click tonight,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “It had been a while since they made shots. I told them it’s an awful lot easier to coach when the ball’s going in the basket.”

The Bucs have won their 11 home games by an average of 24.3 points. In fact, they hardly ever trail at home. ETSU has led 415 of the 440 minutes during games at Freedom Hall.

“I thought we played pretty well for 40 minutes all around,” Forbes said.

ETSU improved to 16-3 overall, 5-1 in the SoCon thanks to a balanced scoring attack. Five players scored in double figures, led by Tray Boyd’s 16 points. Joe Hugley added 14, while Lucas N’Guessan added 12 and Daivien Williamson and Patrick Good had 11 apiece. Bo Hodges was held to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, but led the team with nine rebounds and six assists.

Boyd went 4 of 7 from 3-point range, ending a shooting slump for himself and the team. The Bucs had been shooting 23 percent from long range over their last four games and went 2 of 12 in the first half. They finished 9 of 27.

“It was just a matter of time,” Boyd said. “Everybody kept shooting with confidence. Like Coach says, just keep shooting and they’ll start falling. Tonight they did.”

Isiah Tisdale, Good, Boyd and Williamson each connected from long range as the Bucs stretched their lead to 20 points midway through the second half.

Good went 2 for 4 on 3-pointers.

“We could see it coming,” Forbes said. “Even though we weren’t shooting well in the game previous, we still had a lot of confidence.”

With all-conference forward Jeromy Rodriguez still out with a foot injury, Vonnie Patterson started and Hugley got more minutes. Hugley made 6 of 8 shots and grabbed five rebounds.

“I’’m just trying to hold down the fort until my boy gets back,” Hugley said. “That’’s all it is. Just trying to continue to be ready when my name is called.”

TURNING POINT

ETSU led 37-29 at halftime and began to pull away immediately.

Tisdale opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Hodges followed with a steal and a dunk and suddenly the Bucs had their biggest lead of the night, 42-29.

Moments later, Good connected on his second 3-pointer of the second half and was fouled in the act of shooting. His free throw put ETSU up 51-36 with 15:15 left.

That started a second-half runaway where ETSU led by as many as 29 points.

SHARK ATTACK

Samford’s Josh Sharkey, the SoCon’s leading scorer and assist man, was held in check most of the night. At halftime, he had five points and two assists. He finished with 18 points, most coming after ETSU had pulled comfortably ahead, and three assists.

The ETSU student section was chanting “Baby Shark” in the second half.

Robert Allen added 12 points for the Bulldogs, who fell to 8-11 overall, 2-3 in the SoCon.

UP NEXT

ETSU plays at surprising Western Carolina on Saturday with first place on the line. The Catamounts are 4-1 in the SoCon after losing to Furman on Wednesday night.

Samford plays host to Mercer.

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