Over the break, both men’s and women’s basketball competed in the Southern Conference championship games.
On the women’s side, ETSU went up against the undefeated Mercer Bears. The Bucs dropped both games against Mercer during the regular season and found their path to the NCAA tournament halted by the Bears.
ETSU kept the game close, but a second quarter run gave Mercer the lead, and they did not give it up for the remainder of the game, winning 68 to 53.
This is the first appearance in the SoCon championship since 2015 for the women. Erica Haynes-Overton (Nashville, Tennessee) and Tianna Tarter (Johnson City, Tennessee) were named to the All-Tournament First Team. Haynes-Overton averaged 14.4 points per game this season, a high mark for a freshman. The women’s team also qualified for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and will be playing James Madison University on Thursday.
As for the men, they faced regular season rival UNC-Greensboro. ETSU split their regular season games against this team, the most recent meeting ended the Bucs’ 16-game win streak back in February. In what can only be described as a defensive battle, neither team shot above 40% from the field, and ETSU shot under 19% from beyond the arc.
The Bucs fought hard the entire game, trailing by 6 points with a little over six minutes left in regulation. However, UNC-Greensboro was able to execute down the stretch and build the lead, winning 62-47.
Although the team was not able to make a repeat trip to the Big Dance, ETSU has made a big show of faith in Head Coach Steve Forbes and the success of the team. Forbes just recently inked a contract extension with ETSU, retaining him until the 2022-2023 season, and guaranteeing him around $650,000 a year.
It appears despite falling short of the NCAA tournament, ETSU has confidence in Forbes. Considering the team has had three repeat visits to the SoCon championship since Forbes arrived, the Bucs are in good hands.