ETSU avenged a bad loss just 11 days earlier by beating the Bears 73-60 Saturday in a Southern Conference basketball game at Hawkins Arena.
“It gave them some self satisfaction and it should because they handled us at our place,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “But I don’t think it’s revenge. It’s more just playing better, learning from your mistakes and playing better, and I thought we did that.”
The Bucs improved to 21-4 overall, 10-2 in the SoCon. They kept pace with Furman to remain in a first-place tie. Mercer fell to 12-13, 6-6.
ETSU survived a strange series of events that saw Bo Hodges, the team’s co-leading scorer coming in, foul out midway through the second half. The Bucs were already playing without shooting guard Patrick Good, who remained back in Johnson City to attend to what ETSU officials called “a family matter” and forward Jeromy Rodriguez, who has been out with an injured foot.
Tray Boyd took over in Hodges’ absence. Much like he did in ETSU’s last game, he scored all of his points in the second half. This time the magic number was 15. He also led the team with four assists and four steals.
“I don’t like playing like that,” Boyd said. “First half, once again, it was some good looks, shots I normally make and I missed them. Second half I stayed aggressive. I knew when Bo fouled out we all had to step up. I just made my mission to come out with a W.”
3 FOULS IN 14 SECONDS
Hodges fouled out with 12:29 left in the game after being called for three fouls in a 14-second span. The final one, when he tried to take a charge, was his fifth and he looked stunned as he walked off the court.
“It shocked me,” Boyd said. “I’ve never seen that before. Three fouls back to back to back. It’s ridiculous, but we’re on the road and it’s adversity.”
The Bucs’ lead, which had been as large as 13 points earlier in the second half, was cut to 46-37 after Ethan Stair made two free throws following Hodges’ fifth foul.
ETSU guard Isaiah Tisdale was on the bench with four fouls at the time. Meanwhile, Mercer was playing with three starters having been called for four fouls.
“That’s my fault,” Forbes said. “It’s my job to get him out. It just happened so fast. I heard four and I looked to the bench and Tisdale was the only guard we had left and he had four. Credit to everybody for stepping up.”
Daivien Williamson led ETSU with 16 points, while Lucas N’Guessan had 13. Hodges finished with 11.
“We have a lot of depth,” N’Guessan said. “When one of our teammates goes out, we have to all step it up. We did that tonight. We have a good team.”
BY THE NUMBERS
The Bucs were never able to pull away but they held onto the lead for the final 27 minutes. The advantage hovered between six and eight for several minutes late in the game before the Bears cut it to 61-56 with 3:44 left.
Boyd scored and moments later he fed Tisdale for a layup on a two-on-one to seal the victory by putting ETSU up 69-59 with 1:14 remaining.
Mercer’s Djordje Dimitrijevic led all scorers with 22 points. Stair added 19.
The Bears out-rebounded ETSU 35-31 while the Bucs out-shot Mercer 50 percent to 36. ETSU was 5 of 15 on 3-pointers and 20-28 from the foul line.
ETSU plays host to The Citadel on Wednesday night while Mercer plays at Wofford.