JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 30, 2006) - ETSU senior guard Ben Rhoda (Dayton, Ohio) scored his 1,000th point and went on to match his career high with 23 points - including the eventual game-winner with 18 seconds remaining - giving the Buccaneers a nerve-racking 84-81 victory over Mercer in Atlantic Sun Conference play Monday night inside Memorial Center. Rhoda becomes the 27th ETSU player all-time to reach 1,000 points.
With the victory, the Bucs improve to 12-8 overall, 9-4 in A-Sun play, and move into a tie for second-place in the conference with Kennesaw State's loss to Stetson Monday night. Meanwhile, Mercer loses for the first time in three games, dropping to 5-13, 4-8.
"I would just say we'll take it. It was a heck of a game," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has now won 11 of 13. "They came in here having won two straight in league play and we knew their big three would play well. I'm happy for Ben and what he accomplished with his 1,000th point, and the way the play worked out for him to score the basket that won the game was special."
Rhoda scored his 1,000th point with a free throw at the mark of the second half. It was fitting that the historic point came at the line, especially on a night when Rhoda had a career high 11 free throws on 12 attempts. However, the most important basket of the night for Rhoda came in the final seconds.
In a game that featured eight lead changes in the second half, the Bucs found themselves in possession of the basketball with 36 seconds left and the game tied at 80. After a timeout, ETSU ran a play for junior Travis Strong (
Mercer eventually got another shot at the tie, as ETSU senior guard Tim Smith (
The Bucs, who led most of the first half, were up 46-42 at the break, but Mercer battled back to hold a lead of as many as seven points at 65-58 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest. ETSU regained the advantage on a pair of Rhoda free throws at the mark.
For the game, Rhoda and Smith led the way with 23 points, while Strong pitched in 16 and junior forward Brad Nuckles (Council, Va.) grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. ETSU shot just 40.5 percent from the line, but the Bucs out-rebounded the Bears 49-42 and only turned the ball over nine times.
Mercer had three players in double figures, led by a game-high 28 from guard Jacob Skogen. Brown netted 16, while Will Emerson added 13 in the offensive effort. The Bears shot a strong 45 percent from 3-point range.
The Bucs return to action Friday night against