Mercer ends dream season
Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2000
for Troy State 79-75
By STEVEN G. WATSON
When asked which team he was most afraid of in the Trans American Athletic Conference Tournament, senior Eugene "Tote" Christopher said it would have to be Mercer. That turned out to be a well placed fear Thursday night.
After running the table and holding on to the No. 1 spot in the TAAC throughout the entire year, the Troy State Trojans (17-11) were the fourth team to be bounced out of the conference tourney as the Mercer Bears (12-20) did in TSU’s dream season 79-75 effectively ending the Trojans’ season.
Coming into the game, even though the Bears were the No. 8 seed, TSU and head coach Don Maestri made no bones about it, this was going to be one of, if not the, toughest game of the tournament. As it turned out, it was their only game.
Just like the other two contests this year by the two squads, the Trojans and Bears fought back and forth throughout with nothing decided until the final minute of play. The Trojans won a tight one at Troy State way back on January 8, by four and Mercer won the most recent meeting on Feb. 19, by one on its home floor.
Troy State looked to blow things open early with some hot shooting that saw the Trojans post up an 11-point lead at the 24-13 mark. Once again, however, the Bears hung around. They hit their 3-pointers and nibbled away at the lead until it was only a two-point deficit with 4:15 remaining in the first half.
Then, TSU managed to go on a 9-2 run in the final four minutes, capped by a Detric Golden trey with only 17.7 left, and walked to the locker room up by a comfortable 42-33 margin.
Mercer quickly showed that no margin is comfortable in the second half.
Amid a rash of fouls by both teams, stemmed by some physical play down low, the Bears were knocking on the door again with 14:01 to go in the game down 47-45. From there the Trojans had their troubles at the free throw line, missing opportunities in the bonus, but finally finding their composure as Golden hit two to make it 51-47.
From there Troy State extended the lead to as much as six points, but a shot by Scott Emerson and the foul with under five to go gave Mercer the lead 69-67.
TSU was able to tie the game twice after that, but Emerson scored twice from the post in the next minute to sandwich a jumper by Golden and Mercer was able to hold out for the big upset win and oust the No. 1 seeded Trojans.
In the end it was the rebounding power of Mercer and the inability for Troy State to hit from beyond the 3-point arc that doomed the Trojans.
TSU who lead the league and was one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation, went 0-of-5 down the stretch from long range as Mercer gobbled up each loose ball and kicked it in to their big man Emerson down low on the other end for big layins in the paint.
In the second half the Trojans shot only 1-of-11 from trey land and hit only 29.2 percent for the game. Mercer also out-rebounded Troy State 45 to 33 with 18 boards coming on the offensive end for the Bears.
While TSU was missing from long range Mercer was pounding it down low and hit for 58.1 percent from the field in the second half, led by Emerson with a huge double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds. Mercer also had Chris Hill in double figures with 13 and Rodney Kirtz and Korey McCray off the bench with 12 apiece.
Troy State was led by a game-high 26 from TAAC player of the year Golden and 18 points from Matt Holman.