Rallying from a 14-point deficit, the Bucs fell 83-77 in overtime to the league-leading and defending Southern Conference champion Lady Bears on Thursday night at Brooks Gym.
Erica Haynes-Overton led the comeback for the Bucs (7-20, 5-6). After scoring just two points in the first half, the sophomore guard finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. She was 10 of 12 from the free-throw line, including four crucial makes at the end of regulation.
"If we would play the entire game with the same urgency we typically play in the fourth quarter, we would never find ourselves in these scenarios," ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. "I'm proud of the way they fought back. I'm proud of our offensive rebounding and going to free-throw line and doing the things that we did, but we did enough silly things to give the game away."
ETSU, which hit 19 of 24 free throws overall, held a 22-9 advantage on the offensive boards and a 47-29 rebounding advantage overall. The Bucs outscored the Bears 46-34 in the paint and 22-13 in second-chance points.
Shannon Titus scored 27 points to lead Mercer (19-7, 11-0) which had five players in double figures. Rachel Selph finished with 18 points, followed by KeKe Calloway with 14 points and seven assists. Amanda Thompson had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Linnea Rosendal scored 10 points.
ETSU countered with strong efforts inside and with its bench, which outscored Mercer's reserves by a 31-2 margin. Lexus Spears, a 6-foot-2 junior, accounted for 17 points off the bench, while Britney Snowden, a 6-foot senior, had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"They've been the most dominating post tandem since we've turned the corner, the second half of the league (schedule)," Ezell said. "Watching them in practice, they're difficult to guard. Going up against each other has made them better. You look out on the floor and we've got junior and senior post players and baby guards. Our posts are doing a good job with the effort they're putting in."
FLOW OF THE GAME
Mercer pulled ahead early, taking a 25-15 lead at the end of one quarter and a 40-32 advantage at the half.
ETSU rallied in the third quarter. Raven Dean's 3-point shot at the top of the arc pulled the Bucs within a point 47-46 at the 3:33 mark. Mercer answered and stretched the lead back to eight (58-50) at the end of the quarter.
Down by 10 points with 5:12 left in the fourth, the Bucs scored 10 unanswered points. It included back-to-back put-back baskets by Snowden and Sadasia Tipps and three different scores by Haynes-Overton.
Haynes-Overton tied the game at 75 with four seconds remaining. However, all but one Bucs possession in the overtime period came up empty.
"Hopefully, we can have a short memory," Ezell said. "We've had back-to-back overtime games against quality opponents. We're just finding creative ways to lose right now. Now we have to discover how to get over that hurdle. I told them there are two ways to go into a pool. You can jump into a pool or just dip your toes in. Right now, we're tip-toeing. Jump in and let's go."
ETSU will host Samford for its Senior Day on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.