MACON, Ga. (Dec. 5, 2008) - Despite facing a team that had picked up impressive non-conference wins over Southeastern Conference members Alabama and Auburn earlier this season, the ETSU men's basketball team made a statement in its Atlantic Sun Conference opener.
Powered by a game-high 21 points from senior forward Kevin Tiggs (Flint, Mich.) and another 20 from junior guard Mike Smith (Vandalia, Mo.), the Buccaneers dropped the Mercer Bears 81-61 Friday evening at the University Center. With the win, ETSU improves to 5-3 overall, 1-0 in A-Sun play, while Mercer dropped to 6-3, 1-1.
"It was a great win for us, especially going on the road and winning our conference opener," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, who picked up his 100th win with the Buccaneers. "I'm just so proud of our guys. We're down to eight healthy players and for us to come in here and dominate says something good about our guys."
The Bucs came out strong in the first half for the second straight game, building an early seven point lead when a Courtney Pigram (Memphis) layup found the bottom of the net and made it 18-11 with 11:36 remaining in the half. The ETSU lead would grow to as many as nine points at 32-23 with 3:34 left, and it would remain nine thanks to a defensive stop by the Bucs with just five seconds left in the half. A subsequent tip-in score by Smith made it 37-28 as time expired.
ETSU's defensive effort was the key in the first 20 minutes, making several stops and holding Mercer to a low shooting percentage. Tiggs scored 12 points to lead the Bucs in the first half, while Smith added nine to the cause.
The second half - which included the ejection of Mercer head coach Bob Hoffmann with 12:42 left in the game for receiving his second technical foul of the contest - saw the Bucs continue to build the lead early, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Tiggs and Smith made it 56-36 with 13:16 left in the game. ETSU would lead by as many as 22 in the second half and ultimately won by 20.
Along with Tiggs and Smith, sophomore guard Micah Williams (Manchester) scored a season high 13 points, while Pigram added 12 to the cause.
For Mercer, Daniel Emerson scored a team-high 20 points, while guard James Florence added 15 and Calvin Henry netted 10.
The Bucs will return to action Saturday, Dec. 13 at non-conference rival Appalachian State. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Boone, N.C.