|January 07, 2017||1st||2nd||Final|
|Stats at a Glance||ETSU||MER|
|FG Percentage||.512 (21-41)||.389 (21-54)|
|3P FG Percentage||.353 (6-17)||.240 (6-25)|
|FT Percentage||.679 (19-28)||.833 (10-12)|
- 23||Ria'n Holland
- 6||Stephon Jelks
- 3||Ria'n Holland
H. MOSQUERA-PEREA - 3
- 2||Cory Kilby
Stephon Jelks - 1
MACON, Ga. (Jan. 7, 2017) – Saturday’s game at Mercer was a tale of two halves for ETSU senior T.J. Cromer (Albany, Ga.). And the second half was a classic.
Playing in front of a large contingent of friends and family from his nearby hometown, Cromer struggled with his shot in the first half, scoring just four points before the halftime break and going 1-of-6 from the field. However, the 6-foot-3 guard – who entered the game as the Southern Conference’s leading scorer – looked like it after the intermission, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and finishing with a team high 23 points, helping the Buccaneers overcome a seven-point second half deficit to race past the Bears 67-58 inside Hawkins Arena.
With the win, the Bucs return to Johnson City with back-to-back SoCon road victories, improving to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Meanwhile, Mercer dropped to 7-10, 1-3.
“I challenged our team and told them we were going to see what we were made of tonight and they showed me,” said ETSU head coach Steve Forbes when recalling a timeout early in the second half with the Bucs down by seven at 42-35. “We weren’t really playing well, but we still found a way to win. Credit Mercer because they played hard, but I thought our defense was outstanding the whole game and kept us in it, and T.J.’s second half was special.”
Along with Cromer, the Bucs got 15 points from junior guard Desonta Bradford (Humboldt), as the team shot 67 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range in the second half. For the game, the Bucs finished at 51 percent from the floor after shooting just 39 percent in the first half.
The first half was a defensive struggle for sure, as both teams featured strong half court efforts on the defensive end. The result was a 44 percent shooting percentage from the field for Mercer in the first half, while the Bucs shot 39 percent, and both teams combined to shoot just 3-of-18 from 3-point range. ETSU also committed nine turnovers before the intermission, while the Bears turned the ball over eight times.
Despite those struggles to score the ball, the Bucs never trailed in the opening 20 minutes and held its largest lead of the half at 27-19 with 1:05 left in the half. Unfortunately for ETSU, Mercer closed the half with five straight points and trailed by just three at 27-24 by the break.
Cromer came out on fire in the second half, going 3-of-3 from the field and scoring eight straight points to stake the Bucs to a 35-30 lead with 15:57 left in regulation. However, that was all the good news for the Bucs over the next eight minutes, as Mercer went on a 12-0 run to take a 42-35 lead with 11:41 left in regulation.
Despite not scoring a field goal for over six minutes of game play and following Forbes’ timeout, the Bucs went on a 9-3 run to get back to within one possession at 45-44, and then followed that with a 14-4 offensive burst to build a 58-49 advantage. Cromer continued to power that surge by going 7-of-7 from the field in the second half, as ETSU never looked back the rest of the way.
For Mercer, junior transfer Ria’n Holland scored a game high 24 points and was the only Bears’ player in double figures.
The Bucs will now return to Johnson City for back-to-back games at Freedom Hall, starting Thursday night with a visit from UNC Greensboro at 7 p.m., followed by a Saturday matchup with Western Carolina at 4 p.m. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the 2016-17 season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.