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Boyd, Rodriguez star as Bucs top Citadel in first SoCon game

Joe Avento • Dec 4, 2019 at 9:58 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Tray Boyd put East Tennessee State in position to win, and his teammates took it from there.

Boyd scored 23 of his career-high 25 points in the first half and Jeromy Rodriguez added 26 points and 16 rebounds as the Bucs beat The Citadel 96-84 in a Southern Conference basketball game Wednesday night at McAlister Fieldhouse.

ETSU, ranked third nationally in the Mid-Major poll, improved to 8-1 overall. It’s the Bucs’ best start since the 1990-91 season when they opened 14-1. The Citadel fell to 3-5.

“The main thing was me being patient tonight, letting the ball come to me, not forcing anything,” Boyd said. “Even when I got going, I stayed as patient as I could.”

The Citadel stayed with the Bucs for the first 10 minutes, actually pulling ahead 32-28 before Boyd went to work. The lefty scored 11 points in a row to spark a 16-2 ETSU run.

“Trey can score in bunches, but the thing I really love about him is when they went to a triangle-and-two on him, he was finding shooters,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “Last year, Tray wouldn’t have made those plays. I’m really proud of him for his approach to the game and how he has matured as a player.”

By halftime, Boyd had 23 points, making 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and the Bucs led 54-44.

“I thought Tray and Jeromy really carried us in the first half,” Forbes said. “Had they not played like they did, we would have probably been down. It’s a credit to those guys. It was a great inside-out combination from Northwest Florida Community College.”

Boyd only shot six times in the second half and he made just one of them, finishing 10 of 19 from the field.

Rodriguez continued his onslaught in the second half and finished making 13 of his 15 shots to post the highest-scoring game of his career. It was the 17th double-double in his two years at ETSU. He almost out-rebounded The Citadel by himself as the Bulldogs pulled down 20 boards to ETSU’s 45.

“I always go out there and make sure I do my job,” Rodriguez said. “I try to play hard every single possession. I was feeling pretty good and my teammates did a good job finding me. We shared the ball. Like I always say, every single night it’s going to be somebody different because we got a really good team.”

Kaiden Rice led The Citadel with 30 points, going 11 for 16 from the field. Kaelon Harris had 16 points and Hayden Brown added 12.

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Five ETSU players scored in double figures. Joining Rodriguez and Boyd were Daivien Williamson with 16, Lucas N’Guessan with 11 and Isaiah Tisdale with 10.

Rodriguez was the Bucs’ sixth leading scorer in nine games.

NOT SO PRETTY

Even though the outcome wasn’t in doubt down the stretch, Forbes was still coaching hard.

With 5:20 left, The Citadel’s press forced an ETSU turnover and Forbes was visibly upset and pulled off his suit coat.

Seconds later, when the Bulldogs scored on a layup, he had enough. A quick timeout enabled him to tell his team, which had 16 turnovers, what he thought of its execution.

Three minutes later, the coat was back on.

“I don’t like slippage and I think to be a championship-level team, you have to finish the game correctly and I don’t think we have yet,” Forbes said.

UP NEXT

The Bucs hit the road to Fargo, North Dakota, to play North Dakota State on Saturday. The game is the return contest from last year’s meeting in Johnson City.