There’s been only a hint of nostalgia leading up to East Tennessee State’s basketball game with Charleston Southern tonight in old Brooks Gym.
With the Dome tied up while a new lighting grid is installed over the court, and the home team struggling mightily, this one is just get in and get out for the Bucs, who could use a win anywhere about now. Tipoff is 7 o’clock, after the Lady Bucs and Appalachian State play at 4:45.
“Everything being equal, I would prefer to play in our normal place,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said Monday. “But we knew this situation was coming with the installation of lights. We want to get that done as soon as possible, because it’s going to be nice.
“We’ll make the best of this game. There’s a lot of great history at Brooks.”
The 62-year-old gym was the Bucs’ home until 1977. The team turned its last game there, three years ago, into a Back to Brooks event that included throwback uniforms and fans in retro dress.
Alas, the Bucs played like they were stuck in the 50’s and had to hold on to defeat North Georgia, a Division II school, 75-71.
“I’m trying to forget that game,” said Bartow.
The Bucs (2-6) may or may not be glad to see Charleston Southern (3-5) again tonight. The teams met in South Carolina on Nov. 20, and it took a 20-point comeback and a tip-in by John Walton with three seconds left for the visitors to secure a 59-57 victory.
A month later, that stands as ETSU’s only Division I win.
“Our team was in a little bit of disarray at that time,” said Bartow, “and for us to come back like we did and pull out a win was great. I have a lot of respect for Barclay (Radebaugh, CSU’s coach), and I like his team a lot.”
The victory came a day after senior guards Sheldon Cooley and Marcus Dubose were arrested on drug charges and suspended. The two have since been dismissed from the team, and a rash of injuries has depleted the Bucs further.
The latest was a concussion to sophomore guard Rashawn Rembert that forced him to miss last Friday night’s game at Mississippi, a 77-55 loss that extended the Bucs’ skid to three straight. Rembert is expected to play tonight.
A thin, inexperienced roster has also gotten a boost with the reinstatement of guard Jarvis Jones. The fifth-year senior had been academically ineligible fall semester; he returned with 11 points at Ole Miss.
Lester Wilson has led the Bucs in scoring in six of their eight games, and he’s averaging 18.1. He had a season-high 26, including a half-dozen 3-pointers, in the win at Charleston Southern.
Bartow is still waiting for other newcomers to step up.
Junior-college transfer Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, in particular, has been very quiet while playing through an ankle injury. The 6-5, 250-pound forward is averaging just 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds.
Maybe the sight of those Charleston Southern uniforms will get him going. KGG had 12 points and five boards in the first matchup.
“That was his best game by far,” said Bartow. “Based on expectation levels – he was the junior-college player of the year in Tennessee – we just need more production out of him. He knows how to play, how to pass, how to distribute. We need all that, but we also need him to get us 10, 12, 14 points a game. And he’s gotta help us more on the glass.
“I think as he gets healthy and in better shape, we’ll see more of what he’s capable of.”
Notes: Charleston Southern – also nicknamed Bucs -- comes in after a two-week layoff. It hasn’t played since routing The Citadel 101-73 on Dec. 4.
The team is led by a pair of All-Big South Conference sophomore guards – Arlon Harper (16.3 ppg) and Saah Nimley (14.3). …
Radebaugh is an ETSU alumnus who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant to Les Robinson in 1986. He’s in his eighth season in Charleston. …
CSU is averaging 76 points a game this season. ETSU has reached that figure only once, in a 94-46 blowout of Milligan, and is averaging 58.8.
Take away that game and the average is 53.7. …
Tonight is ETSU’s only home date in December. Next up is Virginia Commonwealth on Jan. 2, which will mark the debut of the new lighting system in the Dome. …
The Bucs head to Hawaii on Wednesday to play in the Diamond Head Classic. They open with fourth-ranked Arizona on Saturday.