MACON, Ga. (Jan. 17, 2013) – With a comeback victory over Atlantic Sun Conference-leading Florida Gulf Coast in its last game, the ETSU men’s basketball team hopes to maintain some momentum when the Buccaneers meet preseason league favorite Mercer Thursday evening.
Tip time is set for 7 p.m. inside Hawkins Arena, and the game will air live on ESPN3.
The Bucs (4-13 overall, 2-2 A-Sun) could become legitimate conference contenders with a win over the Bears, as there are currently six teams in the A-Sun tied with two losses at the top of the standings. If the Bucs are to continue their rise, it will take another strong performance from their youthful but talented lineup.
For more on Thursday’s game, read the game notes located below or click on the game notebook link located above. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2012-13 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.
We are “ETSU”
The ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics would like to ask both the print and broadcast media to honor our request to be called “ETSU” ... East Tennessee State in first reference is acceptable, but subsequent references should be ETSU ... On TV graphics please use ETSU ... Our nickname is the Buccaneers, but Bucs is also acceptable.
After several years of quality returning players and at least some level of certainty regarding what to expect heading into the winter months, the 2012-13 ETSU men’s basketball team will enter the new campaign with several questions and concerns. ... The loss of standout seniors such as Adam Sollazzo (Tampa), Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) and Tommy Hubbard (Boston) will be hard to overcome, considering that group combined for a total of 3,091 points in their careers ... A year ago, the Bucs enjoyed quality wins such as a road victory over Atlantic 10 Conference foe Charlotte, and finished with a respectable 17 victories on the season ... The team finished fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings at 10-8, reaching the league tournament semifinals. ... This season, the Bucs’ top two returning starters were guards Sheldon Cooley (Tampa) and Marcus Dubose (Hartsville, S.C.), who both combined to score 19.7 points per game a year ago. ... However, both Cooley and Dubose have been dismissed from the team for violation of team rules and policies ... Along with those two, fellow guard Jarvis Jones (Memphis) and forward Lukas Poderis (Port Richey, Fla.) are the only other ETSU seniors to be returning after playing significant minutes last year, but Poderis is now lost for the season with a left foot injury and will be forced to redshirt, while Jones missed the first seven games of the year for academic reasons ... Jones returned against Ole Miss on Dec. 14 ... With so few returning, experienced players, ETSU will be looking to some unproven returning players, as well as a recruiting class that includes three incoming freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers, to come in and make an immediate impact. Sophomores Rashawn Rembert (Tampa) and John Walton (Memphis), along with redshirt freshman Lester Wilson (Knoxville) are expected to increase their production this year, while true freshmen guards Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.), Mario Stramaglia (Birmingham, Ala.), and Yunio Barrueta (Miami, Fla.) will look to blossom into early contributors. ... On the interior, Walton will need help from junior college transfers Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (Georgetown, S.C.) and Hunter Harris (Nashville).
Last time out
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 12, 2013) – Down 19 points to Florida Gulf Coast with 17 minutes left in the game, the ETSU men’s basketball team put five players on the floor – a group that included three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior. ... That quintet turned out to be a fantastic five. ... Led by a game-high 21 points from freshman forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) and double figure scoring efforts courtesy of senior guard Jarvis Jones (Memphis), freshman guard Mario Stramaglia (Birmingham, Ala.) and freshman point guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.), the Buccaneers overcame a 55-36 deficit to dramatically drop league-leading Florida Gulf Coast 85-75 in Atlantic Sun Conference action Saturday afternoon inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. ... While Wilson led the way, Jones finished with 18 points, while Stramaglia and McClain pitched in 14 and 10, respectively. In addition, McClain dished out eight assists, while Stramaglia grabbed up five rebounds. Sophomore post John Walton (Memphis) was the fifth man in the fantastic five, finishing with eight points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of action. ... Indeed, it was as if the 2,446 fans inside the Dome were watching ETSU’s youngsters grow up in front of them. After FGCU (12-7 overall, 4-2 A-Sun) seemed to have their way offensively at every turn during the first 23 minutes of play, the Bucs began their comeback with a 14-2 run in which Wilson, McClain and Stramaglia scored every point. ... While FGCU responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 63-50 with 11:05 remaining in the contest, the Bucs did not back down as Wilson again answered with a 3-pointer and sparked the Bucs to a 35-12 run to close out the game. ... The Eagles did manage to get to within four points at 79-75 and had possession of the ball with just under a minute remaining, but as the Eagles’ Bernard Thompson went up for an apparently open layup, Jones soared in at the last minute to block it away. Stramaglia picked up the loose ball and was fouled, subsequently hitting two free throws to basically ice the game. ... ETSU hit on 61 percent of its shots in the second half and was 50 percent from beyond the arc. In fact, the Bucs scored a season high 53 points in the second half, and also shot 88 percent from the foul line.
The series versus Mercer
The Bucs lead the all-time series over Mercer 12-3, and held a four-game winning streak against the Bears before losing 54-46 in Macon, Ga., back on Feb. 6, 2012.
Last time out versus Mercer
MACON, Ga. (Feb. 6, 2012) – The ETSU men’s basketball team did the job defensively Monday night against the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top team. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, their offensive effort was a different story. ... Shooting just 27 percent from the floor for the game, the Buccaneers posted just 17 first-half points and dropped a 54-46 contest to the Mercer Bears inside the University Center. ... The Bucs held Mercer to just 37 percent shooting from the floor and an astounding six percent from 3-point range. However, the Bears out-rebounded the Bucs 42-31 and shot 83 percent (19-of-23) from the free throw line. ... In what has become a theme for the season, the Buccaneers were extremely ineffective in the early going offensively, scoring just 17 points in the first half and shooting only 26 percent from the floor. Despite those issues, the Bucs led 14-13 with 8:02 left before the intermission, but looked on as the Bears went on an 11-3 run to close out the half. ... The Bucs’ defense kept them in the game in the first half, forcing seven Mercer turnovers and denying the Bears from hitting any shots from 3-point range. However, Mercer dominated in the paint with a 21-13 advantage in rebounds, and outscored the Bucs 16-8 on points in the paint. ... After the intermission, the Bucs methodically battled back and got to within three at 37-34 with 7:20 left on the clock. At that point, junior forward Lukas Poderis (Port Richey, Fla.) had a chance to get the Bucs even closer, but after missing the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, Mercer took advantage and went on an 8-0 run to build a 45-34 lead with 5:15 remaining in the game. ... The Bucs again answered with a 6-0 run of their own to make it 45-40, but after Mercer grabbed yet another offensive rebound on a missed shot, guard Travis Smith sank a basket to stop ETSU’s run and make it 47-40 with 1:37 left. ... From there, the Bucs began fouling and were able to cut the lead to four at 50-46, but that would be as close as they would get.
Young Bucs still face obstacle with experience
At no time in the tenure of ETSU head coach Murry Bartow have the Buccaneers had less experience ... Currently, the team has 10 players who are eligible and healthy enough to play, and of that group there are only six total years of Division I experience ... On average, that’s less than a half year of experience per player ... With four freshmen and two junior college transfers that means 66 percent of the team is competing in their first season of Division I basketball.
New lighting system for the Mini-Dome
The game with VCU marked a new look for the Buccaneers home court inside the ETSU/MSHA Atheltic Center ... Over the holiday break, a new lighting system and championship banners were installed inside the Dome, creating a more “basketball friendly” environment ... Along with the new LED digital boards along the floor, a renovated “Courtside Club” for donors, and the team’s new practice facility which was completed earlier this year, there have been over $1 million in basketball improvements made to the Dome this year alone.
Shuffling starters the “new normal” for Bucs
ETSU head coach Murry Bartow has used 13 different starting lineups in the team’s 17 games this season ... Injuries and dismissals have left the ETSU’s coaches searching for the right combination, as the team currently stands at 4-13.
Freshmen trio shine in win over FGCU
When league-leading FGCU built a 19-point lead over the Bucs back on Jan. 12, few would have thought a youthful ETSU team could pull off the victory ... However, a freshman trio that included redshirt freshman Lester Wilson (Knoxville), and true freshmen Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) and Mario Stramaglia (Birmingham, Ala.) had a different plan ... Helping power an ETSU comeback, the young Bucs ultimately came back and won 85-75 ... Wilson finished the game with a game-high 21 points, while McClain pitched in 10 points and eight assists at the point position, and Stramaglia came off the bench to score 14 points and grab five rebounds ... The question for ETSU fans is whether these youngters can continue to grow and become more consistent.
Gadsden-Gilliard shows signs of production
Early in the season, ETSU coaches spoke openly about the potential junior transfer Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard (Georgetown, S.C.) to produce quality numbers ... Thirteen games into the season KGG had struggled to meet those predictions, but that changed against Lipscomb (1/5) ... Setting or matching personal bests for points (13), rebounds (7), assists (3) and free throws (3) in 30 minutes of action, KGG played arguably his best game of the season so far.
Jones meeting expectations for Bucs
ETSU head coach Murry Bartow expected the return of senior guard Jarvis Jones (Memphis) would improve his team’s efforts on the offensive end of the floor … He was right. … After posting a career-high 21 points against No. 4 Arizona, followed by a team-high 14 against Hawaii and another team-best 17 against San Francisco, Jones is now averaging 14.3 points per game in his eight outings since returning from academic probation against Ole Miss back on Dec. 14.
ESPN names Wilson to nation’s Top 25 freshmen list
While circumstances have forced the ETSU men’s basketball team to struggle in the early going this season, talented redshirt freshman forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) has still given the Buccaneers reason for hope. ... Wilson, who is averaging 15.8 points per game, was listed as one of the Top 25 freshmen in college basketball Thursday by ESPN hoops writer John Gasaway. The list – which included players such as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, UCLA’s Jordan Adams, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon – had Wilson ranked at No. 25. ... Wilson has posted six 20-plus point games so far this season.
Three-point streak for Bucs dates back nearly 20 years
Since Feb. 16, 1987 in a game against Davidson, the Bucs have made at least one 3-pointer in 781 consecutive games. ... ETSU was 0-for-8 in that 1987 game.
Bucs have tradition of postseason appearances, success
The ETSU men’s basketball team has enjoyed its share of postseason success and ranks as one of the nation’s most prestigious basketball programs ... The Buccaneers have earned berths to the NCAA Tournament nine times (1969, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) and NIT twice (1983, 2007) ... In 2011, the Bucs made their first ever appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, winning twice and advancing to the semifinals of that event ... It was the program’s 12th postseason tournament appearance all-time.