Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said he didn’t want his team to get into an open-court game with East Tennessee State on Saturday.
But the Buccaneers showed at Hawkins Arena that they can grind out wins, too, beating the Bears 67-58 in Southern Conference play.
The game was close throughout with East Tennessee State leading 27-24 at the half. Mercer grabbed its first lead with 15 minutes remaining, but the Buccaneers responded to regain control.
East Tennessee State’s largest lead was 11 points, while Mercer’s was seven.
The Buccaneers improve to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in conference play, while the Bears fall to 7-10 and 1-3.
Three who mattered
Ria’n Holland: The Mercer junior finished with 24 points, hitting 8-of-15 shots from the floor. He hit four 3-pointers but was the only Mercer player to score in double figures.
T.J. Cromer: The East Tennessee State senior had 23 points, hitting 8-of-13 shots, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Desonta Bradford: The Buccaneers junior scored 15 points and had five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Mercer used as 12-0 run to grab its first lead at 37-35 on a 3-pointer from Demetre Rivers, but the Buccaneers responded with a 23-9 spurt to regain control and led the rest of the way.
On the break: East Tennessee State didn’t get out in the open court much, but it still had a 15-0 advantage in fastbreak points.
Struggling from 3: Mercer made only 6-of-25 tries from 3-point range. Holland made half of his eight attempts, but the rest of the team made 2-of-17.
Struggling overall: For the second straight game at home, Mercer’s offense was off the mark as the Bears shot 38.9 percent (21-of-54) for the game.
Back with the team: Point guard Jordan Strawberry made it back to Macon on Saturday after leaving the team for his grandfather’s funeral. Rashad Lewis started for the second straight game at point guard.
They said it
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman on the loss: “We got them right where we wanted them and were up seven at the under-eight minute timeout, and then we didn’t score. We turned it over at least three times that led to layups, live-ball turnovers, and you can’t do that against that kind of team. We couldn’t get shots.”
Hoffman on Holland and the lack of second scorer: “Ria’n was special, but we couldn’t get anybody else going in that stretch right there to close the game to have a chance to win the game. Those are the moments you’ve got to step into and be ready for. I didn’t find the right plays. I didn’t put them in the right situations.”
Holland on the loss: “We kind of relaxed after we took the lead, wasn’t playing as hard as we were to get the lead. Some calls, we started fouling a lot, and rebounds, we weren’t getting. It seemed like we kind of dropped off after we got that lead a little bit.”
Mercer continues Southern Conference play Wednesday at Samford.