Since East Tennessee State joined the A-Sun, games against Mercer have been somewhat welcomed.
The Bucs will try to improve on their 11-2 series lead when they host the Bears at 4 p.m. on Saturday in A-Sun men’s basketball.
It will be the second game for ETSU head coach Murry Bartow since the Tuesday evening death of his father, coaching legend Gene Bartow.
ETSU beat USC Upstate 88-73 on Wednesday at home to improve to 6-7 overall and 1-2 in conference play.
The Bucs have won three straight over the Bears, including a bruising battle almost a year ago in Johnson City. The 82-75 win included three technical fouls, a career scoring night from ETSU’s Mike Smith and a season-ending injury to Mercer’s Brandon Moore.
ETSU (6-7, 1-2) is replacing 60 percent of its offense from last season, losing Smith, Micah Williams and Justin Tubbs.
Guard Adam Sollazzo and Sheldon Cooley along with forwards Isiah Brown and Tommy Hubbard give the Bucs some quality experience. Those four, along with guard Marcus Dubose, average between 8.4 and 15 points per game.
Mercer is 11-6 overall and 3-1 in A-Sun play. The Bears are a game behind Belmont (11-5, 4-0) and a half-game ahead of USC Upstate (8-7, 2-1) and North Florida (8-8, 2-1).
Daniel Coursey leads the conference in field goal shooting at 64.1 percent and blocks with 2.3.
Jake Gollon is third at the foul line with an 88.9-percent mark, and Langston Hall is tied for third with 1.6 steals, a little behind conference leader Cooley’s 2.4. Hall is also fourth in assist-turnover ratio.
Mercer’s women (3-12, 1-3) will try to break a three-game skid overall and five-game losing streak to ETSU. Those losses to the Lady Bucs have been by an average of 21.2 points, including 100-62 in Macon almost a year ago.
But the Lady Bucs are struggling, too, at 2-11 overall and 1-2 in A-Sun play. The lone wins have been over Morehead State 68-57 and USC Upstate 67-64, and they’re being outscored by nearly 14 points per game.
Destiny Mitchell is tied for second in the A-Sun with 7.5 rebounds a game, with teammate Tosha Austin at 7.2. Austin is fifth with 1.1 blocks.
Former Northeast standout Maria Bond is fourth on the team with 6.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and third with a 44.6-percent shooting mark.
Mercer’s Briana Williams is third in the A-Sun at 15 points per game and Ry’van Buchanan fifth in field goal shooting at 47.5 percent.
Mercer continues the road trip on Monday with a doubleheader at USC Upstate. USC Upstate’s men have lost two straight, including 72-66 at South Carolina on Dec. 31. The women are 1-13 and 0-3.