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Bucs in good frame of mind with Wofford coming to town

Joe Avento • Feb 6, 2019 at 9:50 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Steve Forbes likes the mentality of his East Tennessee State basketball team these days. That’s a good thing for the Bucs, who are set to play host to Wofford in their biggest home game of the season.

“I like where we are,” Forbes said. “I like the vibe. They like how they’re playing. I think they have confidence.”

ETSU and the Terriers meet in a critical Southern Conference matchup Thursday at 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall. Wofford comes in riding a 10-game winning streak, brings a 19-4 record into the game and is 11-0 in the conference. The Terriers are ranked second in the Mid-Major poll.

The Bucs have won three games in a row and 11 of their last 12. They’re 19-5, 9-2 and ranked eighth among mid-majors.

A Wofford win would almost certainly be a fatal blow to ETSU’s regular-season title hopes. That would leave ETSU three games back with six to go.

Should the Bucs win, they’d be right back in the mix.

LAST MEETING

For some reason, the SoCon had these two teams play on Dec. 1 and Wofford came away with a 79-62 victory in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“I think both teams are in a different place right now,” Forbes said. “It just seems kind of odd that it’s the second time we’re playing them and it’s hard to remember the first time.”

Forbes was ejected from that game after getting two late technical fouls when he thought Bo Hodges was fouled.

“Here’s the thing,” Forbes said. “That game was closer than the score. When I thought Bo got fouled, we had a chance to cut it to six and we ended up losing by 17. I don’t think the score was indicative of that game.”

ETSU’s inside players combined to go 2 for 17 that night. That was before 7-foot center Lucas N’Guessan was given a waiver from the NCAA to become eligible this season.

N’Guessan doesn’t shoot much, but when he does he’s deadly. He’s making 76.1 percent of his shots, which would lead the SoCon by a wide margin if he had enough shots to qualify for the stats.

Wofford is one of two teams this season to out-rebound the Bucs, who still lead the nation in rebounding margin. Wofford is also in the top 10.

SCOUTING THE TERRIERS

Wofford has one of the most dangerous players in the SoCon in Fletcher Magee. The senior guard is second in the league in scoring at 19.0 points per game and when he gets his shot going — he has one of the quickest releases in college basketball — nobody does it better.

“That’s a given,” Forbes said. “Fletcher Magee is going to get some points. We’re not going to hold him scoreless, but we can’t let him have a huge night where he makes seven, eight or nine threes.”

While Magee, who scored 24 points in the teams’ first meeting, is making more than four 3-pointers per game to lead the conference, he hasn’t been as efficient as in recent years. He’s making 38.7 percent from long range, ranking 14th in the SoCon. He does lead the league in free throw shooting at 93.6 percent.

“We have to pay a lot of attention to him,” Forbes said. “With that, you have to maintain your principles. I think sometimes where you get messed up playing a team like this is you get so worried about one guy that you mess up the principles and other guys hurt you. You can’t do that.”

The Terriers certainly have plenty of weapons other than Magee.

Cameron Jackson averages 14.8 points and 7.6 rebounds, while Storm Murphy is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and Nathan Hoover is shooting 45.5.

Wofford is making 41.0 percent on 3-pointers, ranking sixth in the country.

The Terriers’ only losses have been to North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi State. They had a game against Stanford canceled because of the California wildfires.

BUCS’ SCORING DEPTH

Patrick Good leads the Bucs in scoring at 12.0 points per game. Tray Boyd averages 11.7 and Jeromy Rodriguez 11.5. Eight players are averaging more than seven points a game.

ETSU has 386 assists this season, which ranks 12th nationally.

UP NEXT

After this big game, the Bucs have another. They travel to Furman for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday. Meanwhile, Wofford heads to Western Carolina.

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