MACON, Ga. – There was no big comeback this time for the East Tennessee State basketball team.
Daniel Coursey scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Mercer rolled past ETSU 78-59 in an Atlantic Sun Conference game Thursday night at Hawkins Arena.
Five days after putting together a rousing comeback to beat Florida Gulf Coast, the Bucs ran out of answers in the second half. After staying within striking distance for most of the first half, they never threatened Mercer over the final 26 minutes.
“We didn’t play well enough,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “Out-coached, out-played, out-hustled, out-scrapped, out-rebounded, didn’t make free throws, didn’t execute like we need to.”
Mercer’s Langston Hall missed a triple-double by one rebound. He had 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
“He was fantastic,” Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. “He missed some shots he normally makes, but it was just a fantastic effort.”
Travis Smith led Mercer (11-8 overall, 4-2 A-Sun) with 18 points, but it was Coursey who did most of the critical damage. The 6-foot-10 junior scored nine points early in the second half as Mercer went up 50-32. It was the Bears’ biggest lead of the night at that point and it gave them enough cushion to cruise home despite going 3:41 without a point midway through the second half.
“I thought Daniel was really good tonight,” Hoffman said. “He was aggressive. He had a good week of practice. His mindset was really different.”
The Bucs (4-14 overall, 2-3 A-Sun) put together a run that got them within 11 points a couple of times midway through the second half, but they didn’t have enough firepower to complete the comeback.
“The game plan goes out the window,” Bartow said. “You start scrambling. You’re pressing more, playing more man. You’re doing some things that you know you need to do but you don’t do well.”
Lester Wilson, ETSU’s leading scorer, was held to three points, his lowest output of the season. He made 1 of 7 shots from the field.
Jarvis Jones led the Bucs with 12 points, but he was 3 for 11 at one point before making a couple of 3-pointers in garbage time.
While Mercer made 19 of 23 free throws, including its first 14, the Bucs missed nine foul shots in a row in the second half as they tried in vain to cut into the deficit. ETSU finished 5 for 17 from the line.
Kennard Gadsden-Gilliard put together a brief burst of offense that enabled the Bucs to stay close for much of the first half. Gadsden-Gilliard scored eight consecutive points – his entire output for the night – and outscored Mercer 8-2 by himself over a three-minute stretch to tie the game at 22 with 6:20 left in the half. He then drew the Mercer defense and found a wide open Hunter Harris for an emphatic dunk with 5:16 left in the half.
ETSU scored only four points the rest of the half. Mercer made all 10 of its free throws in the first half to take a 39-28 halftime lead.
Bud Thomas, a 27-percent 3-point shooter, came off the bench and scored 11 points for the Bears, all early. He doubled his scoring average of 5.7 points per game in the first half, going 3 for 4 on 3-pointers.
Mercer finished with 22 assists.
“We tried to play some man-to-man and they just cut us to shreds,” Bartow said. “They’ve got a lot of guys who can score. They stretch you in a lot of different ways. It’s hard to focus on one or two guys.”
The Bucs shot 43 percent and made 8 of 20 shots from 3-point range. Mercer shot 49 percent and was 9 for 26 from long range. Each team had 16 turnovers.
ETSU plays at A-Sun cellar dweller Kennesaw State on Saturday afternoon.