Saturday, February 20, 2010
Men's Basketball Monumental Road Win, Key Loss
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
As the Atlantic Sun conference slate comes to a close, the Mercer men’s basketball team picked up a key win against East Tennessee State but also a tough loss against the Campbell Camels on the road in the Bears’ next to last road trip of the season. The narrow six point loss to Campbell, 69-63, came as a result of 20 turnovers on offense and 13 steals for the Camels on defense, but two nights later the Bears shocked everyone with an unheralded first win in Johnson City as they defeated the Bucs 82-77.
The loss against the Camels was a tough one to swallow for Mercer fans as well as head coach Bob Hoffman. “We needed to finish more plays and we had opportunities late in the game but just couldn’t finish,” the second year head coach said on MercerBears.com. “They were very physical and played a lot of trapping defense everywhere. We just didn’t handle the pressure very well,” he added.
The Campbell-Mercer matchup also featured what could be the final matchup between talented guards Jonathan Rodriguez and James Florence. Both players made A-Sun history as the first 2,000 point players to face one another during the regular season. Both were also major factors in the game as Rodriguez scored 24 points (9-15 FG, 6 assists)for Campbell and Florence tallied 21 points (7-13 FG) on the night for Mercer.
It was certainly a low scoring affair in the first half as the Camels led at the break 24-22. Campbell and Mercer were choosy in their shot selection during the first half, but accurate when they did shoot, hitting 43% from the field for both sides. The second half brought about more Mercer turnovers and offensive miscues on which Campbell capitalized on, but in the end the Bears’ second half effort shooting kept them in the game. A blistering 65% (15-23 FG) from Mercer, led by Florence, Daniel Emerson (12 points, 6 rebounds), and E.J. Kusnyer (10 points) helped pace the Bears. Campbell’s Rodriguez got plenty of help from his teammates though as Miles Taylor (12 points), Junard Hartley (10 points), and Lorne Merthie (10 points) also finished with double-digit scoring totals. The win helped improve Campbell’s standing in the Atlantic Sun by another game, boosting their record to 10-5.
After the tough loss, many basketball fans assumed that another trip to ETSU’s home court in Tennessee would equal another loss for Mercer. For the first time in six years since the ETSU-Mercer series began, the Bears picked up a monumental win against the Bucs on the back of some hot shooting from guard E.J. Kusnyer. The burly-Pittsburgh native hit five 3-Pointers to pace Mercer with a team-high 21 points on the night while forward Daniel Emerson chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds including his 300th rebound of the season.
ETSU had a hot shooter of their own during the game with Tommy Hubbard hitting 10 of his 20 shots to net 24 points, but ultimately Mercer’s team effort on offense and 33-for-40 from the charity stripe sealed the five point win for the Bears. Notably, starting guard James Florence played only 21 minutes after a high ankle sprain, finishing with 12 points.