JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2010) - Going 25-of-25 at the free throw line before eventually finishing the game with a 33-of-40 clip at the charity stripe, the Mercer Bears took advantage of the ETSU men's basketball team's fouling woes on Sunday afternoon, dropping the Buccaneers 82-77 in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
With the loss, the Bucs (14-13 overall, 10-6 A-Sun) drop one game back in the race for a conference title with four games left on the schedule. Meanwhile, Mercer improves to 13-13 overall, 9-7 in league play.
"It's a bad loss, especially at home," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team has posted an uncharacteristic 8-5 record inside the Dome this season. "We just couldn't get over the hump. We were right there in that two to seven-point range the whole night. Late in games, it's no secret we just haven't been able to find someone to go to on the offensive end that can make a play. That happened again tonight."
Trailing 72-68 with just under three minutes left in the game, the Bucs missed out on their chance to pull closer by going 1-of-4 at the foul line. From there, Mercer responded by going 8-of-13 at the line to keep the Bucs from rallying.
It was a game of runs in the first half, as the Bucs went on a 7-0 stretch to make it 17-12 in favor of ETSU with 11:34 left in the half. However, from there ETSU did not score for six minutes of game time and Mercer took that opportunity to go on a 15-0 run and led 27-17 with 6:09 left before the intermission. The Bucs finally responded and outscored the Bears 17-10 the rest of the way to make it 37-34 at the break.
In the second half, the Bears led by as many as 12 points at 56-44 at the 13:42 mark. The Bucs slowly battled back to make it a two-point game at 65-63 on a 3-pointer by junior guard Justin Tubbs (Trussville, Ala.), but that was as close as ETSU could get the rest of the way.
Along with their 82.5 percent effort from the foul line, the Bears also shot a blistering 63 percent from the floor in the second half. Both teams committed their share of turnovers, with Mercer finishing with 19 and ETSU ending the game with 15.
The Bucs were led by junior forward Tommy Hubbard (Boston), who posted his 13th double-double of the year with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, teammates Tubbs, Isiah Brown (Miami, Fla.) and Micah Williams (Manchester) finished in double figures with 13, 10 and 10 points, respectively.
For the Bears - who played without the services of All A-Sun guard James Florence in the second half due to an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the first half - guard E.J. Kusnyer led the way with 21 points. Meanwhile, post Daniel Emerson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Florence added 12.
The Bucs will return to action on the road Friday night against Campbell in a game that will be regionally televised on CSS. For more of ETSU men's basketball throughout the season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men's hoops link.