Bucs drop hammer on Cavs

Photo by Kristen Luther
Bucs sophomore Aaron Scott soars toward the rim for a slam dunk.

  JOHNSON CITY--The East Tennessee State Buccaneers looked like a playground bully. The smaller University of Virginia-Wise Cavaliers took the beating, but kept fighting.
  In Saturday's season opener, the Bucs took things easy late after leading by as much as 50 in their 105-60 win at the Memorial Center.
  ETSU was without Tim Smith and Brad Nuckles for the bulk of the contest, as both went down with small injuries early.
  Smith tweaked his ankle and was kept out as a precautionary measure, while Nuckles injured his left foot.
  "I went up for a lay-up and the defender came down on my foot and tweaked it," said Smith, who is expected to be back for the team's road trip to Marshall Tuesday. "It hasn't been bothering me all year. It hurts -- I had to get it iced off. I've got to come back and play. I've got to be a warrior for my team."
  It gave the team a chance to let its newcomers shine as each of the three debuting Bucs scored in the double digits.
  The juco duo Chris Mitchell and Dillion Sneed had solid games. Mitchell tallied 17 points and 11 boards, while Sneed had 12 points. Freshman Andrew Reed made as much of an impact with his 16 points and 12 boards during his debut.
  "I loved the atmosphere of my first college game," said Reed. "We've been running the floor in practice, so I'm used to it. I love to play and I was excited to get the opportunity tonight."
  Junior guard Ben Rhoda led the way for the team with 20 points, while senior guard James Anthony hit three treys in his 18-point effort, and Travis Strong finished with 10 points.
  "It helps to get our feet wet in front of our home fans," said Rhoda, who tied his career high. "We'll start preparing for Marshall. It's good not to have those first game jitters going into that game. It was fun to get to play up and down."
  The Bucs dominated from the inside in the game, outrebounding Wise 47-28 with nine steals and five blocks. Turnovers are still a problem for the Bucs as they had 20 in the opening contest.
  Offensively, however, ETSU shot close to 70 percent in the game compared to the 32 percent tallied by Wise.
  "There were a lot of encouraging signs and a lot of bright spots," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "Ben was really good and James shot the ball very well. I think double-doubles from two of our new players was also a good sign.
  "But there were some discouraging signs as well. We didn't shoot free throws well and we had way too many turnovers. There's room for improvement."
  Sneed, Rhoda and Anthony each hit big buckets early in the opening half.
  Anthony busted two and senior Sam Oatman, who had a career high seven assists, had a big trey that put it out of reach early.
  Wise was down 35 points before breaking into the double-digit mark on the scoreboard late in the first half. ETSU led 55-16 after the opening frame.
  Mitchell and Reed came alive in the second half, as did the Wise offense.
  Blake Mellinger picked up where he left off after a successful first half to finish the game with 20 points.
  Former Dobyns-Bennett star and current Cavalier freshman Joey Blackwell hit six three-balls in the second half to finish with 18, while Jarred Soles tallied 14.
  After the Bucs' road trip against the Thundering Herd, they return home for a big outing against Fresno State on Saturday.
  "We've got some big games that could be very important," said Rhoda. "We want to play well and win."