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ETSU turns tables, takes down Mercer

Joe Avento • Feb 8, 2020 at 11:33 PM

MACON, Ga. — East Tennessee State’s players said revenge wasn’t on their minds as they prepared to take on Mercer. Staying in first place was enough motivation.

ETSU avenged a bad loss just 11 days earlier by beating the Bears 73-60 on Saturday in a Southern Conference men’s 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.”

ETSU (21-4, 10-2) 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.

SECOND-HALF TRAY

Tray Boyd III took over in Hodges’ absence. Much like he did in ETSU’s last game, Boyd 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 Hodges 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 Mercer’s 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 (12-13, 6-6) 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. Lucas N’Guessan had 13 and 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 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 outrebounded ETSU 35-31, but the Bucs outshot Mercer 50% to 36%. ETSU was 5-for-15 on 3-pointer attempts and 20-for-28 from the foul line.

UP NEXT

ETSU hosts The Citadel on Wednesday night.

Mercer plays at Wofford on Wednesday night.

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