MACON, Ga. (Jan. 9, 2010) - All good things must come to an end, and Saturday afternoon against Mercer, the ETSU men's basketball team watched as its perfect 8-0 all-time record against the Bears finally suffered a blemish.
Without the services of sophomore forward Isiah Brown (Miami), who missed the game with an ankle injury, the Buccaneers trailed 73-53 with 4:42 left in the game. However, ETSU made a spirited comeback over the final minutes only to fall short 83-78 during Atlantic Sun Conference action inside the University Center.
"No one is as unhappy as I am right now, but we are still 4-1 in the league and off to a good start," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team dropped to 8-8 overall, 4-1 in A-Sun play and remains tied atop the league standings. "Mercer played a good game. They have three really good seniors, and they have a good team this year, but we battled at the end which I'm proud of. We're still really young and that showed at times today, but we like where we are right now. Heading back home for five of our next seven is important for us."
The Bucs shot just 38 percent from the floor for the game, while allowing Mercer a 49 percent clip. Mercer also shot 43 percent from 3-point range, which was critical as the Bears built their lead throughout the second half.
For ETSU, a major bright spot in the game was freshman guard Sheldon Cooley (Tampa, Fla.), who finished with a game-high 29 points and three steals. Meanwhile, junior guards Micah Williams (Manchester) and Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.) finished with 18 and 12 points, respectively.
For Mercer, preseason All A-Sun guard James Florence scored a game-high 22 points, while Jeff Smith added 17, E.J. Kusnyer pitched in 15 and Daniel Emerson had 13.
The first half started poorly for the Bucs, who watched as Mercer pulled out to an 11-1 lead with 14:57 left before the intermission. However, ETSU finally found its offensive game and put together a 17-5 run over the next four
minutes to take the lead 18-16 at the 9:10 mark.
Mercer responded by going on a 12-6 run of its own to take a 28-22
advantage with 5:52 left, and ultimately led 35-28 at the break. In the first half, the Bucs managed just one assist and shot 34 percent from the floor.
The Bears opened the second half on a 12-4 run to make it 47-32 by the first media timeout with 15:50 remaining in the game. That lead grew to as many as 20 with 4:42 left, but at that point the Bucs used a pair of offensive runs to get within four points on a couple of occasions. However, they were never able to get within one possession.
ETSU returns home Thursday night to take on Stetson at 7 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. For more on ETSU men's hoops throughout the season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.