It came right down to the end, but the Mercer Bears couldn't get the big shot they needed to force overtime as they dropped a 77-74 decision to East Tennessee State on Saturday.
The loss was the fifth straight for Mercer, its first five-game losing streak since the end of the 2007-08 season.
Mercer trailed by three and got three looks at a tying shot, but Demetre Rivers missed his, Phillip Leonard had his blocked and Jordan Strawberry missed at the buzzer.
Mercer falls to 18-11 overall and 8-8 in Southern Conference play. ETSU improves to 19-10 and 12-4.
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FOUR WHO MATTERED
Strawberry: The sophomore point guard scored 22 points, hitting 7-of-13 shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers.
Leonard: Playing in his final home game, the senior point guard scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Lawrence Brown: The junior came off the bench to score 14 points, hitting seven of his nine shots.
Ge'Lawn Guyn: The East Tennessee State senior had 32 points, including seven 3-pointers.
Lineup change: Freshman Andrew Fishler made his first start of the year at center, moving Jelks back to his normal power forward position.
Strong bench play: The lineup change also moved Strawberry out of the starting lineup, which helped the bench, and that was a key for the Bears, who outscored the Buccaneers 37-20 in bench points.
Another injury: Late in the game, Stephon Jelks and Ethan Stair collided on the defensive end. Stair hurt his ankle while Jelks was checked for a concussion and didn't return. He finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Home-court slide: Mercer won its first 11 home games of the season, but it lost the final three.
Race for fifth/sixth: The Bears dropped into a tie for fifth place in the conference with Western Carolina and UNC Greensboro, both of whom won Saturday. Western Carolina swept Mercer and UNC Greensboro. The top six teams avoid the first round of the conference tournament.
Voice of the Bears: Rick Cameron was honored before the game as he called his 500th Mercer game.
THEY SAID IT
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman on the loss: “Our guys deserved to win (Saturday). They played really, really good. They’re amazing young men, how they’ve been resilient and continued to fight with all they have.”
Strawberry on his closing 3-point attempt: “It felt pretty good. It was a pretty good look. It just didn’t fall. It happens. You’ve just got to move on from it.”
Strawberry on coming off the bench: “It doesn’t really matter to me. I think that me coming off the bench gives us a spark. That was something we needed me coming off the bench and giving us that spark in the game. That definitely helped us.”
Leonard on his final home game: “I wasn’t really worried about senior night or anything. I was just worried about winning the game. We still have more games to play. This wasn’t the last game of the season, so it wasn’t that important.”
Mercer heads to VMI on Thursday.