This was one the East Tennessee State women's basketball team let get away.
The Lady Bucs led by five points with 3:30 left, only to be outscored 12-2 the rest of the way in a 57-52 loss to Mercer in front of a sparse crowd that braved a snowstorm.
"This one was tough to take," ETSU coach Brittey Ezell said. "We let this one get away and I'll be miserable about it until we come back to practice on Monday."
When Maria Bond's two free throws put ETSU up 50-45 with 3:30 left, the Bucs appeared in good shape. Instead, Kate Alemann made a 3-pointer and Alicia Williams converted a traditional 3-point play and the Bears were back on top for good.
ETSU's only points the rest of the way came on a basket by Bond that cut the Mercer lead to 53-52 with 1:38 left. Aleman's put-back put the Bears up 55-52, and the Lady Bucs missed two 3-pointers in the final minute.
ETSU (6-12 overall, 2-5 Atlantic Sun Conference) shot 31 percent from the field, and by Ezell's count, missed 16 layups.
"I don't know if panic set in, but we're missing free throws, we're missing layups," Ezell said. "I told them we're all in college here, let's do the math. Just make half of them. Sixteen layups is unbelievable. First thing you learn as a little girl is how to shoot a layup and how to shoot a free throw."
Two of ETSU's starting guards -- Shamauria Bridges and Brianna McQueen -- combined to go 7 for 31 from the field. Bridges did make back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half to help her team take its biggest lead of the afternoon at 36-30. But she cooled off and finished 4 for 13 overall.
"They were good shots," Bridges said of her 3-pointers. "My teammates gave me good passes so I felt confident. Toward the end, I just couldn't really hit anything so that really hurt."
Bond led ETSU with 13 points, going 4 for 10 from the field and 5 for 10 from the line. Bridges finished with 12. McQueen got off to a solid start, but wound up with eight points on 3-for-18 shooting.
"It hurts," said ETSU forward Serena Clark, who led both teams with 12 rebounds. "But we have to bounce back."
The Bears (10-9, 3-5) were led by Kendra Grant's 16 points, but she shot 6 for 23 to get them. Alemann added 12. Point guard Sharnea Boykin played all 40 minutes for the sixth consecutive game and had five assists.
Mercer's Tianna Robinson, a 6-foot-5 junior who leads the country in blocked shots at 4.12 per game and had nine blocks against Georgia, was saddled by foul trouble and didn't get a block until the final minutes.
Robinson picked up her second foul seven minutes into the game. She played only eight minutes in the first half and didn't get a block, and then was called for her third foul 51 seconds into the second half. She was limited to 17 minutes and wound up with four fouls, two of which came on what appeared to be clean blocks.
ETSU was playing without leading scorer Cara Bowling for the third game in a row. Bowling, a junior guard from Elizabethton, is nursing an injured hip. She is averaging 12.7 points a game and is the top 3-point shooter on the team at 39 percent.
McQueen came into the game ranked 11th nationally in free throw shooting at 91 percent. She did not get to the line.
The attendance was listed as 192.
The Bucs head to Florida for the second time this season for games at Jacksonville on Thursday and at North Florida on Saturday.