Buccaneers blast VASDA in tune-up

Photo by Kristen Luther
ETSU forward Dillion Sneed goes up for a slam dunk.

  JOHNSON CITY--They were tested early, but for the most part, the rusty East Tennessee State Buccaneers showed signs of promise for the upcoming season.
  Each of the starting five scored in the double digits, while the bench and newcomers excelled during the squad's 110-69 exhibition victory over VASDA USA at Brooks Gymnasium Saturday.
  VASDA kept the game within reach during most of the first half, but the Bucs pulled away in the second half against the squad who missed its two biggest players.
  "Obviously, they didn't have a lot of size. A couple of their big guys didn't show up," said Buccaneer coach Murry Bartow. "I thought we did a lot of good things. We've only got 10 healthy guys and we need them to be successful."
  "We did have some bright spots and there's some versatility in the different lineups we can go with," he said. "We want to see new guys like Dillion (Sneed), Chris (Mitchell) and Andrew (Reed) more."
  "I wanted (the inside guys) to get banged around and tested, and then all of a sudden guys who are 6-3 and 6-4 are guarding them. It wasn't as good of a test as I wanted to see."
  Junior guard Tim Smith led the way for the Bucs with 21 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals.
  Smith, who is still adamant on entering the NBA Draft after this season, was glad to see different faces on the floor.
  "We had to get the butterflies out," Smith said. "It's an exhibition game and doesn't count, but it gets you ready for next week. It's good to beat up on somebody else, other than your own teammates. Coming out today, everybody played well."
  The biggest surprise of the day was obviously the play of junior college transfer Sneed, who tallied 18 points with eight boards and three big slams to liven up the mostly quiet crowd.
  "We all played hard and together," said Sneed, who looked better than his six point and six rebound average at Colby Community College last season. "There were some spots that we could improve. We definitely stepped it up defensively. That was a big point the coach was trying to make this week and last week."
  Junior forward Brad Nuckles also played strong with 18 points and 14 boards, while senior James Anthony and his three trays racked up 16 and junior Ben Rhoda contributed 12 points with four assists and two blocks.
  "We came out and played hard in our first game in front of the fans and against somebody else," said Rhoda, who also contributed 11 boards and four assists. "We were excited to come out. We played well.
  "Obviously, they were a little depleted and didn't have that many guys. We held them to 28 percent shooting, which is just awesome."
  The other newcomers, Mitchell and Reed, had a solid outing. Despite foul trouble, Mitchell looked strong defensively with his four points, while the promising, athletic freshman (Reed) tallied eight points with two big slams.
  On a down note, the Bucs committed 20 turnovers in the game, 16 of which came in the first half. And sophomore guard Travis Strong wasn't his normal self in his perimeter game, going 0-for-6 from behind the three-point arch.
  "We're going to have some turnovers with this team, but we want to try to keep them down to a minimum," the coach added. "We had 16 at the half and you don't want 16 in a whole game."
  "We expect some big things out of Travis Strong," he said. "He didn't have a big game tonight, but we expect him to be a big part of our perimeter game."
  The Bucs went up by 10 points after just five minutes played forcing the game's first timeout.
  VASDA rallied back behind the play of former Middle Tennessee State star Marcus Robinson and Appalachian State's Shawn Hall to make it a two-point game, but that was as close as the squad would get.
  Nuckles delivered a big slam and the Bucs broke things away to a 47-35 lead at the half.
  In the second half, ETSU had a 20-point lead by the 15-minute mark. Anthony, Sneed and Reed all provided some sky miles for the unit with some crowd-pleasing dunks, while Nuckles downed two treys late to build a 46-point lead.
  The Bucs coasted from there.
  Overall, the squad shot well from the field (57.5 percent) and outrebounded VASDA 62-37.
  ETSU next hosts the University of Virginia-Wise next Saturday at 4 p.m. in a new Memorial Center setting.
  Robinson led VASDA with 16 points and eight boards in the game, while Reggie Brown and Ron Lewis contributed 13 points apiece for the visitors. Stacey Williams led the team with nine boards and three blocks.