JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 31, 2014) – If the ETSU men’s basketball team could have played Mercer Friday night without the Bears’ senior guard Bud Thomas on the floor, things would have been very different. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, Thomas’ presence was obvious.
During one decisive stretch late in the first half and into the second half, Thomas scored 18 straight points on six 3-pointers and ultimately finished with a game-high 28 to lead Mercer past ETSU 90-77 in Atlantic Sun Conference hoops action at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
With the win, first-place Mercer continued to improve its season record, moving to 18-5 overall 9-1 in league play. Meanwhile, the Bucs dropped to 11-11, 4-5.
“We did enough things on the offensive end to win, but the problem was we just couldn’t get stops and we get defensive rebounds,” said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. “Mercer is a really good team. They have been building this for four years now and they have everything you want as a coach. Tonight, we just didn’t play well enough to beat a team like that.”
The Bucs did post some quality numbers, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 42 percent from 3-point range. However, Mercer bested those numbers with a 55 percent clip from the floor, and a 52 percent mark from beyond the arc. In addition, the Bears out-rebounded the Bucs 38-24, while dishing out an impressive 22 assists on the night.
Thomas was the story of the first half, basically doing the offensive work that resulted in a 45-31 lead for the Bears at the intermission. The game had been close at 27-24 with 6:03 left, but Thomas then hit five straight 3-pointers and scored 15 of Mercer’s final 18 points of the half to power an 18-7 offensive run.
When the smoke cleared, Thomas had netted 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, while the Bears were a remarkable 12-of-17 (71 percent) from beyond the arc. The Bucs were left staring at a 14-point deficit while facing the A-Sun’s first-place team.
After the break, ETSU shot a strong 58 percent from the floor, but again could not stop the Bears from answering on the other end of the floor. The Bucs did get to within eight at 50-42, but Mercer stopped that run with a 7-0 spurt of its own, and never let their advantage slip below 10 points the rest of the way.
Thomas – who went 8-of-14 from 3-point range on the night – was joined in double figures by guard Anthony White, Jr., with 13 points, while guard Langston Hall added 12. In addition, forward Jake Gollon nearly posted a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the night.
For the Bucs, junior guard Rashawn Rembert (Tampa, Fla.) finished with a team-high 19 points, while fellow junior guard Jalen Riley (Racine, Wis.) finished with 15. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Lester Wilson (Knoxville) and senior forward Hunter Harris (Nashville) each pitched in 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The Bucs will be back in action again Sunday at home, taking on Kennesaw State at 2 p.m. inside the Dome. For more on ETSU men’s hoops throughout the year, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.