MACON, Ga.- A cold-shooting second half by Mercer combined with hot shooting by East Tennessee State created a deficit that the Mercer men's basketball team couldn't overcome as it dropped a 104-81 decision to East Tennessee State in Atlantic Sun Conference play Saturday afternoon in the University Center.
Mercer (3-12, 2-7 A-Sun) trailing by 10 at intermission, saw the Bucs score the first six points out of the break to open a 16-point cushion. After the Bears cut the deficit to seven with more than 15 minutes left in the contest, ETSU went on an 18-6 run that pushed the lead to 20 points midway through the second half, and Mercer could get no closer over the final nine minutes.
The Bears jumped out on top early as guards Andrew Brown and Jacob Skogen combined to give Mercer a brief 7-4 lead in the contest, but East Tennessee (10-7, 7-3 A-Sun) penetrated inside and hit outside shots as the Buccaneers scored 16 of their first 23 points in the paint, led by guard Ben Rhoda, while preseason Conference Player of the Year Tim Smith added two 3-pointers in the breakout.
"ETSU is a very good team and they played very well", said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "After the game I talked to our younger players about maintaining their composure in tight games."
Mercer guard Montavious Waters, who had missed the last three games with a stress fracture in his left foot, provided a spark for the Bears. He entered the game at the 12:46 mark and with Mercer trailing 23-17, forward Brian Pfohl dropped in a basket off an assist by Skogen, and following a steal by Waters, senior Will Emerson scored two of his 13 points off Skogen's second straight assist. Out of a media timeout, Waters snatched his second steal and drove in for the layup, tying the game at 23 apiece. A pair of 3-pointers – one by Brown off an assist by Waters and the second by Emerson -- gave Mercer its largest lead of the game, 29-23.
East Tennessee answered with a run, taking a 32-29 lead when Skogen missed a 3-pointer and forward Sam Dolan was called for a foul, then a technical foul in the ensuing scramble for the rebound. The momentum continued to go the Bucs' way as they pushed out to an 11-point lead and went to intermission leading 52-44.
Both team placed four players in double figures, with Skogen leading the way for the Bears, dropping in 16 points. Brown added 14 points to go along with five assists, tying Smith for game-high honors. Emerson chipped in 13 points while pulling down a team-high seven rebounds. Guard Ross Alacqua threw in 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
ETSU's Smith led all scorers with 23 points, and forward Dillion Sneed added 16 points and eight rebounds as the Buccaneers handed Mercer only its second home loss this season.
The Bears will look to snap their five-game losing skid as they visit Stetson Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. tip off in the Edmunds Center.