JOHNSON CITY — The East Tennessee State men’s basketball team may be a lot shorter and thinner as it begins a stretch of five straight games on the road.
Coach Murry Bartow was waiting Sunday to hear about the playing status of center Seth Coy, who injured his right foot during practice Saturday. The suspicion was that the popular 6-foot-11, 250-pound freshman could be out of action for at least several weeks.
The Buccaneers (2-2) play at Tennessee Tech (3-0) tonight. Tipoff is set for 8 o’clock.
“We were just practicing yesterday and he felt a sharpness in his foot,” Bartow said. “I don’t know ... he doesn’t have a history of these problems.”
At least, he didn’t. Coy had sit for a month leading up to the season opener with a stress fracture in his other foot. He bounced back impressively, however, and made his first start Thursday night in a 96-66 victory over Wingate.
The big man had 18 points and blocked three shots. Afterward he said it was “amazing” how quickly he had gotten into the mix. His coach agreed.
“We were just starting to figure out some things with Seth in there,” Bartow said.
The Bucs may be more than one man short in the frontcourt tonight against the Golden Eagles. Sophomore Tommy Hubbard, who hasn’t dressed out the past three games, is still hobbling around with turf toe.
“He tried to play yesterday and re-aggravated it,” Bartow said. “It’s very doubtful that he’ll play.”
The injuries mean the Bucs will need more inside from freshman Isiah Brown and senior Greg Hamlin, who continues to be bothered by tendinitis in his knees.
Hamlin played well in the Wingate victory, with eight points and five rebounds in 13 minutes, but hasn’t shown enough stamina to play major minutes. He will take Coy’s place in the starting lineup tonight as the Bucs try to build some momentum for the holidays.
“This is a big stretch of games that’s really going to test our team,” said sophomore guard Micah Williams. “We’ve got a lot of young guys, and it’s hard to gel with the injuries.
“Losing Seth would be a big loss for us; he’s really been playing well. We don’t have any other 7-footers to put in there.”
The Bucs likely will have their hands full regardless against the Golden Eagles, their old Ohio Valley Conference rivals.
The teams met in an ESPN Bracket Busters game late last season at Memorial Center, with ETSU prevailing 88-80 to tie the overall series 31-31. A revamped Tennessee Tech team has come out in good form early this season, posting home wins over Bryan and Southern Utah sandwiched around a road victory at Lipscomb.
“They’re still very athletic and very similar to last year’s team,” Bartow said, “but they have seven new faces.”
Daniel Northern, a 6-9 senior, had 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Bucs last season.
ETSU had everything clicking against Division II Wingate in handing Bartow his 200th career coaching victory. The star of the show was Courtney Pigram, who turned in just the second tripledouble in school history, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin Tiggs also scored 21, and Coy and Mike Smith (12) finished in double figures as well.
But now it’s back to the road. After Tennessee Tech, the Bucs play at Bradley, Marshall, Mercer and Appalachian State.
“We try to get around it every year,” Bartow said of scheduling so many early road contests, “but it’s worse this year because we have 20 league games. Two of those are in December, but they’re on the road, too.
“This is just a tough stretch with a young team that’s pretty banged up. All five of these games will be tough.”
The Bucs’ next home game is Dec. 17 against Chattanooga.