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Bucs thump rival Mocs

Joe Avento • Jan 5, 2019 at 11:02 PM

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State retired Greg Dennis’ jersey Saturday. Then the Bucs retired Chattanooga.

Tray Boyd III had his second big game in a row and ETSU rolled past the Mocs 96-70 in a Southern Conference men’s basketball game at Freedom Hall in front of a crowd of 5,011.

In what is considered their biggest rivalry, the Bucs beat Chattanooga for the sixth consecutive time. Their average margin of victory during that span has been 17 points.

“That’s the way you want to do a rivalry is have the upper hand,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “When I got here they were really good and we had three battles with them and lost. We haven’t lost since. We’d like to keep it that way.”

Dennis, the second-leading scorer in ETSU history, got to watch the Bucs roll past the Mocs by making 13 of their first 17 shots before finishing at 61 percent shooting, win the rebounding battle by 10 and make 9 of 18 shots from 3-point range.

“When we have numbers like that, this team is pretty hard to beat,” Forbes said.

ETSU (13-4, 3-1) has won all nine of its home games for its best start since the 2003-04 season when the Bucs opened 12-0.

“I think we just wanted to get this win,” said Boyd, who scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers. “It was very important to the fans. We always preach about protecting the home court and we came out with a chip on our shoulders.”

ETSU began to seize control with a 16-0 run and added a 15-2 spurt to end the first half and begin the second.

Kevon Tucker and Boyd hit back-to-back 3 to put ETSU up 69-46 with 12:03 left in the game. Moments later, Boyd head-faked past two defenders, spun to the rim for a layup and was fouled. The free throw stretched the Bucs’ lead to 79-48 and the rout was on.

ETSU’s biggest lead was 33 points.

“This is my fourth time playing them,” said the Bucs’ Bo Hodges, who scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. “It’s always been a fun game. I love playing Chattanooga. It’s a rivalry game with the crowd.”

ETSU BY THE NUMBERS

Daivien Williamson had 11 points, five in the opening minutes. Lucas N’Guessan got 10 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes.

Mladen Armus grabbed 10 rebounds and the Bucs outrebounded Chattanooga 37-27.

ETSU had 22 assists on its 36 baskets.

JEROMY’S HUMAN AFTER ALL

ETSU forward Jeromy Rodriguez, one of the top rebounders in the country, was shut out in the first half. He played just six minutes before halftime after picking up two fouls and didn’t grab his first rebound until early in the second half.

Rodriguez finished with six points and four rebounds, eight below his average.

FOR THE MOCS

Donovann Toatley had 19 points and fellow freshman Kevin Easley added 15 to lead Chattanooga (7-10, 2-2).

“It’s a balancing act because those guys play a lot of minutes for us,” Mocs coach Lamont Paris said. “They’ve both started at one moment or another and you try to keep in mind that they’re freshmen, but at the same time, as a starter, you have expectations for guys. I’m really happy with them.”

HIT THE ROAD

ETSU travels to The Citadel on Thursday and plays at Mercer on Saturday.

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