MACON, Ga. (Jan. 6, 2014) – In a game highlighted by wild momentum swings and offensive runs, the ETSU men’s basketball team got to within two points late but was unable to complete a second half rally, dropping its first Atlantic Sun Conference game of the season to Mercer, 73-63, Monday evening inside Hawkins Arena.
ETSU freshman guard A.J. Merriweather (Jackson) finished the game with a career and game-high 20 points, while senior forward Hunter Harris (Nashville) added 14 in the losing effort. With the loss, ETSU drops to 8-7 overall, 1-1 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, the Bears improve to 12-5 overall, 3-1 in league action.
“If we play a cleaner game offensively and make some more shots this is probably a different game,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, whose team trailed by as many as 15 in the second half. “We just didn’t make it happen tonight. I still feel really good about this team, but to beat teams like Mercer, USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast on the road, you have to play really well. It just didn’t happen for us tonight.”
The Bucs were doomed by poor shooting in the first half, and a 24 percent clip from 3-point range for the game. Meanwhile, Mercer went 25-of-31 from the foul line compared to a 13-of-21 clip for the Bucs.
ETSU enjoyed a great start in the first half, holding Mercer scoreless over the first five minutes of game play and ultimately building a lead of 15-1 with 14:02 left before the intermission. However, the good times didn’t last.
Mercer answered the Bucs’ quick start by outscoring ETSU 34-10 over the next 12 minutes to roar back and lead 35-25 with 2:05 left in the half. The Bucs closed the deficit to eight points at 37-29 by the break, but the Bears had survived a terrible start to hold a significant lead on their home floor.
While they started with pinpoint shooting, the Bucs faltered as the game progressed, finishing the first half shooting just 33 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Mercer rebounded offensively to shoot 48 percent from the field and 57 percent from beyond the arc at the break. The Bears also held a 20-14 advantage on the glass at the intermission, and the Mercer bench players outscored the Bucs 22-4.
After the break, Mercer’s all-conference guard Langston Hall opened the half scoring nine straight points and the Bears’ lead ballooned to 15 at 46-31. The Bucs stayed resilient though, thanks primarily to the play of Merriweather and Harris, who combined to score 17 points as ETSU manufactured a 20-7 run to make it 53-51 with eight minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, that would be as close as they would get, as Mercer ended the contest with a 20-12 run to win by 10 points.
For Mercer, Hall led the way with 17 points, while Jibri Bryan added 16.
The Bucs will return to A-Sun action Thursday evening back inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center, hosting Lipscomb at 7 p.m. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2013-14 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.