JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 8, 2015) – The ETSU men’s basketball team faces its most critical two-game stretch of the season beginning on Thursday night, as the Buccaneers welcome the Mercer Bears into Freedom Hall for a Southern Conference showdown at 7 p.m.
The Bucs and Bears, who developed a healthy rivalry during their nine seasons together in the Atlantic Sun Conference from 2005-2014, both joined the Southern Conference this season. And as was the case in the A-Sun for many of those seasons, both teams yet again find themselves at the top of the league standings.
ETSU enters the game at 8-4 overall and 3-1 in Southern Conference play, while Mercer stands at 8-8, 3-0.
While ETSU holds a 12-7 advantage in the all-time series and enjoyed a win over Mercer in the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference championship game, the Bears have won the last five meetings between the two schools.
After Mercer, the Bucs will also welcome SoCon contender Chattanooga on Saturday at 4 p.m. For tickets to these SoCon matchups, call 423-439-3878 or visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the tickets link.
For more on Thursday night’s game, read the game notes located below or click on the game notebook link to the right. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2014-15 season, visit ETSUBucs.com.
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 University 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.
The ETSU men’s basketball program enjoyed a solid campaign in 2013-14, winning 19 games on the year and earning a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament ... The trip to the CIT marked the sixth postseason trip for the Bucs in head coach Murry Bartow’s 11 seasons at ETSU (three NCAAs, one NIT and two CIT trips) ... In addition, the Bucs enjoyed a first round postseason tournament victory over Lipscomb in a thrilling double overtime game, while also giving Florida Gulf Coast a scare in the tournament semifinals in Fort Myers, Fla. ... ETSU went on to defeat longtime rival and newly-renewed conference foe Chattanooga in the first round of the CIT at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center ... The key to success for the Bucs in 2013-14 was the play of an impressive backcourt and that group will return this year led by rising seniors Rashawn Rembert (Tampa) and Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), along with rising junior Lester Wilson (Knoxville) ... While that trio will be back to lead the Bucs, the team will also return starters A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) and Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) this season ... One major area of concern for the Bucs will be the frontcourt, as the team lost all of its contributors from a year ago ... Along with the loss of senior Ron Giplaye (Lowell, Mass.) to a knee injury earlier this season, sophomore Isaac Banks, and newcomers such as senior Alex Bates (Greenbelt, Md.), junior Tommy Williams and freshman Karl Overstreet (Lynchburg, Va.) are left to make up for those losses on the inside ... Other players who are expected to contribute this season include sophomore guard Devin Harris (Tampa, Fla.), who showed great potential at the end of last season, and freshman guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt), who was a Mr. Basketball selection during his senior year of high school.
The series vs. Mercer
The Bucs lead the all-time series over Mercer 12-7, but ETSU has lost five straight in the series, including a loss in their last meeting 90-77 back on Jan. 31, 2014 in Johnson City ... The majority of the past 19 matchups were played over the last nine seasons, as the two teams were previously members of the Atlantic Sun Conference ... ETSU actually defeated Mercer in the championship game of the 2010 A-Sun Tournament on the Bears home floor.
Last time out vs. Mercer
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 31, 2014) – If the ETSU men’s basketball team could have played Mercer Friday night without the Bears’ senior guard Bud Thomas on the floor, things would have been very different. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, Thomas’ presence was obvious. ... During one decisive stretch late in the first half and into the second half, Thomas scored 18 straight points on six 3-pointers and ultimately finished with a game-high 28 to lead Mercer past ETSU 90-77 in Atlantic Sun Conference hoops action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. ... The Bucs did post some quality numbers, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3-point range. However, Mercer bested those numbers with a 55 percent clip from the floor, and a 52 percent mark from beyond the arc. In addition, the Bears out-rebounded the Bucs 38-24, while dishing out an impressive 22 assists on the night. ... Thomas was the story of the first half, basically doing the offensive work that resulted in a 45-31 lead for the Bears at the intermission. The game had been close at 27-24 with 6:03 left, but Thomas then hit five straight 3-pointers and scored 15 of Mercer’s final 18 points of the half to power an 18-7 offensive run. ... When the smoke cleared, Thomas had netted 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, while the Bears were a remarkable 12-of-17 (71 percent) from beyond the arc.
Last time out
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Jan. 5, 2015) – In a game that saw 14 lead changes and 11 ties, the ETSU men’s basketball team made a critical defensive stop at the buzzer and survived a road trip to Samford with a 76-74 win over the Bulldogs in Southern Conference play inside the Pete Hanna Center. ... Trailing by three at 72-69 with 2:34 left on the clock, senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) hit a clutch 3-pointer, blocked a shot by Samford’s Christen Cunningham, grabbed the defensive rebound and then found fellow senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) with an outlet pass that led to a pair of free throws. ... At that point the Bucs led 74-72, but then after trading foul shots, it was the Bucs who got a final defensive stop by forcing a miss by Cunningham as the buzzer sounded. With the win, ETSU improves to 8-4 overall, 3-1 in SoCon play, while Samford drops to 7-10, 0-4. ... It was a night for offense, as the Bulldogs matched the Bucs shooting effort by hitting on 55 percent of their shots from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range. From the foul line, the Bucs also went 16-of-20 (80 percent), while Samford was 17-of-23 (74 percent) from the charity stripe. ... On the night, Riley finished with a game-high 26 points, Rembert netted 18, Wilson finished with 17, and sophomore forward A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) had 10. For Samford, Marcus Johnson led the way with 20 points, while three other Bulldogs reached double figures.
Riley rolling in SoCon play, leads league in scoring
In four games against Southern Conference teams this season, senior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) has put up impressive scoring numbers ... Riley is averaging 29.3 points per game in SoCon games, while shooting 52 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent at the foul line ... He is also averaging 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game against SoCon teams. ... For the year, Riley is currently second in the SoCon in scoring with 20.4 points per game, trailing only VMI’s QJ Peterson who is averaging 20.5 a contest.
Perimeter trio accounts for signiciant offensive output
The trio of senior guards Rashawn Rembert (Tampa) and Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), along with forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville), accounted for over 50 percent of the team’s offensive production a year ago, with Rembert and Riley leading the team with 16.8 and 13.4 points per game, respectively, while Wilson pitched in 10.1 points per game. ... That same group has picked up where it left off a year ago, with Riley leading the team with 20.4 ppg, Rembert second with 17.0 a contest, and Wilson netting 14.1 ppg.
Twelve games into the season, it’s no secret that the Buccaneers are relying on their 3-point shooting as a major component of the team’s offense this year ... In five home games so far this season, the team has combined to hit 59 3-pointers, and has tied the school record for 3-pointers in a game (15) two times at home -- and a total of three times all together ... Those numbers have led some people to start calling Freedom Hall by a new moniker -- Three-dom Hall ... As a team, the Bucs currently rank third nationally with 11.2 3-pointers per game, and rank 9th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (40.5%) ... Individually, junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville), along with senior guards Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) and Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) are ranked among the nation’s best in threes per game ... Rembert is 5th (3.8 pg), Wilson is 11th (3.3) and Riley 45th (2.8).
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 841 consecutive games. ... ETSU was 0-for-8 in that 1987 game. ... The Bucs currently rank as the 7th longest streak in the NCAA, just behind Arkansas and ahead of Oakland.
McClain making place next to ETSU’s greatest PG
ETSU fans have fond memories over former point guard and All-American Keith “Mister” Jennings, who is considered the program’s greatest player ... What many fans may not realize is that current point guard Petey McClain (Mobile, Ala.) is quietly making a place next to Jennings in the ETSU record books ... Currently, McClain ranks No. 2 next to Jennings on the Bucs’ all-time assist/turnover ratio list, making him one of the two best guards in school history for protecting the basketball ... McClain also ranks in the Top 10 all-time for total assists (10th) and assists per game (6th). ... In his last outing, McClain matched his career high with 11 assists in the loss to Tennessee (12/31).
Bucs need to get defensive this season
A year ago, ETSU’s offensive production was one of the best ever, as the team finished third on the all-time list with 2,689 points on the year ... However, despite averaging 76.8 points per game, the team also allowed opponents to score an average of 76.1 a game ... Even though Coach Murry Bartow’s team can score the basketball, key to success this year will be the Bucs’ improved defensive effort. ... The Bucs have been effective defensively in three of their road wins this season, winning at Winthrop, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky by holding those teams to scoring games in the 60s.
Rembert, Wilson, Riley approaching 1,000-point plateau
Senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) recently surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career, leaving teammates Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.), along with junior forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) aiming to join him in that elite group ... While Rembert now stands at 1,098 for his career, Wilson is at 941 points in his two plus seasons, while Riley will need a strong year offensively to reach 1,000, as he stands now at 714 points so far ... Riley certainly got off to a good start this year, netting 27 in the season opener at Valpo (11/14), 21 against UVa.-Wise (11/18), 31 in the win over Western Carolina (12/3), and 28 in the loss to UNC Greensboro (12/13).
Rembert making his place in ETSU hoops history
Senior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) has become one of the most feared shooters in the country over the last two years, and after a 2013-14 season in which he led the Atlantic Sun Conference in scoring (16.8 ppg) while also setting a new ETSU program record for 3-pointers in a season with 108, expectations are high as the 2014-15 campaign begins ... The quality numbers don’t stop with purely scoring and 3-point shooting, as he posted a Top 10 ETSU single season mark for free throw shooting percentage last season (.842), while also helping the Bucs finish with the top season marks ever for free throws made (656) and attempted (877) ... Rembert was also an Ironman on the floor, average 36.1 minutes per game, the fourth highest total in program history.
Bartow atop list of second generation coaches
Murry Bartow’s coaching lineage is undeniable ... As the son of the late Gene Bartow, he had the fortunate opportunity to grow up learning from one of the most successful basketball coaches in college history ... Setting off on his own career, Bartow has carried on the tradition. ... His 216 wins at ETSU ranks second on the Bucs’ all-time list ... In addition, Bartow’s 319 career victories ranks No. 1 among second generation coaches ... Along with his father’s 647 career wins, the Bartow men have combined for 965 victories, ranking fourth on the all-time win list for Father/Son coaches.
Bucs adds to postseason resume in 2013-14
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) ... A year ago, the Bucs made their second trip all-time to the CIT Postseason Tournament, marking the program’s 13th postseason tournament appearance all-time ... In the Bucs first CIT appearance, ETSU went 2-1 with wins over Furman and Ohio, advancing to the tournament semifinals before losing to Iona in a hard-fought 83-80 contest at the Dome ... Last year, the Bucs went 1-1, defeating fellow Southern Conference member Chattanooga before falling to Towson in the quarterfinals.
ETSU picked in upper half of “Prestige” programs list
Since the beginning of the modern era for NCAA Division I-A basketball – marked by the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 64 teams in 1984-85 – the ETSU men’s basketball program ranks in the Top 30 percent of the 300 programs that were eligible for the postseason at that time, this according to ESPN.com’s “Prestige” ranking released back in 2008 ... Since that time, the Bucs have only added to their list of prestigious honors, with back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2009 and 2010, followed by CIT appearances in 2011 and 2014 … Since the 1984-85 season, the Buccaneers, who have enjoyed nine NCAA Tournament trips, two NIT berths, two CIT berths, 11 20-win seasons, and a slew of conference regular season and tournament championships in that time, ranked tied for 82nd out of 300 teams, meaning they were in the Top 27 percent of schools making the list. ... ETSU was ranked ahead of current and former Southern Conference rivals Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro. ... In addition, the Bucs ranked ahead of SEC schools such as Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Georgia, Mississippi and Auburn, as well as other major programs such as Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, DePaul, Bradley, Clemson, California and Florida State.