Trojans outshoot Bears from the field

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 7, 2000

Sports Editor

It seemed as if every time Troy State went down the floor on an offensive possession, Mercer Bears’ head coach Mark Slonaker dropped his head.

On a day when the Trojans would shoot 43 percent from beyond the three-point arc, Coach Don Maestri’s team opened the game with an 11-0 run and held of several rally’s by Mercer to claim an 83-72 win over their TAAC foe rivals. It was the fourth win in as many games for the Trojans as they improved to 6-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play.

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"We haven’t been lucky shooting the ball this season," said Maestri. "But we shot the ball well today. We did a good job in just about every area of the game…on defense, rebounding and shooting the ball."

Thanks mainly to a 51 percent from the field

day, Maestri’s concern about the Bears’ size beneath the basket never materialized. Mercer finished with just six points in the paint to Troy State’s 26. The battle of the boards finished even at 30 a piece.

"Rebounding was where we were really concerned, because when they (Mercer) beat Auburn they just dominated Auburn inside on the glass," said Maestri. "We knew that if we didn’t rebound well, we wouldn’t have any chance in the game. So our kids did a good job of fighting for every loose ball and not giving up second shots."

The Trojans, who have placed five players in double figures their last two outing’s, placed four in that category against Mercer. Derrick Davis led Troy State with a career-high 19 points and the three players behind him, Lemayn Wilson, Matt Holman and Robert Rushing, all finished the game with 18 points.

"Our starting five is averaging 10 points a game," said Rushing. "So we know we have many options when it comes to scoring with the basketball. We can go inside to Lemayn or Jacova (Jenkins), plus Lemayn can take it outside. We like to create mismatch problems so that we’re able to go to anybody on the team."

Rushing did most of his damage to Slonaker’s Bears in the latter stages of the game. Mercer had cut the Trojans’ lead to 61-57 on the strength of a three-pointer by Korey McCray, but Rushing answered with back-to-back trey’s of his own, which was followed by a three-pointer by Wilson and then a basket by Rushing again. Mercer came back with six straight points to make it 73-67 in favor of TSU with three minutes left in the game.

However, Troy State finished on a 10-5 run, which was highlighted by an underhand pass from Rushing to Wilson who jammed it home with four seconds left. Just a minute before Davis had taken the a ball on the rebound in mid-air and effectively killed the Bears with a dunk of his own.

"That was big time," said Rushing about Davis’ slam. "Derrick just brought a lot of life to this team from the first day he was eligible. Lemayn had a good night last game and Derrick had it today. There’s no telling when we come out who’s going to play the best game, because right now we’re all playing good."

Down 11-0 early and with TSU’s zone defense denying the inside game the Bears wanted so desperately to establish, Mercer decided to play the Trojans’ game.

And in the first half it payed off.

At 16:35 in the first period, McCray gave his team their first points of the game with a basket and then he and fellow guards Rodney Kirtz and Josh Sangester started matching the Trojans trey-for-trey.

In the final five minutes of the first period, Sangester sank three straight three-pointers, which was immediately followed by a three-point shot by Scott Emerson that cut the Trojans’ lead to 35-34. A Kirtz three-pointer with 1:40 left tied the game for the first time at 39-39.

But Rushing gave the Trojans a 44-41 lead at the half with three-point shot.

"They started hitting some good shots and tried to make a run," said Rushing. "But we said in the locker room, we wanted to keep our lead and go hard in the second half and it payed off."

Davis opened the second period with consecutive baskets, including one in which he took the ball the length of the court and drove the lane, laying the shot off the glass with his left hand. Two straight three-pointers by Holman gave the Trojans a 58-45 lead and while Troy State continued shooting the ball well from the floor, Mercer shot just 28 percent in the second half.

"We’ve seen enough of them on film to know that they’re (Mercer) capable of shooting with anybody," said Maestri. "We didn’t make that many changes to our defense in the second half, but I think we came up with few more big plays on the defensive side of the ball. I think the main thing was that we remained consistent on offense, because Mercer would make little runs here and there, but they were never able to develop much rhythm offensively."