Fletcher, TSU dump Bears, 71-65

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 24, 2002

Sports Editor

A depleted Mercer Bears’ basketball team came into Trojan Arena on Tuesday night, wanting to limit Troy State’s shot opportunities and get the ball inside to 6-foot-10 forward Justin Howard.

But for Ben Fletcher and Lacedrick Pettway the plan might have worked to perfection.

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The Bears outmuscled Troy State on the boards, 46 to 30 and Howard was load down low, scoring 20 points.

However, with Mercer up 36-33 in the second half courtesy of a Tyler McCurry 3-pointer, Pettway and Fletcher took matters into their own hands.

Pettway immediately answered with consecutive 3-pointers, and Fletcher, held to just one field goal in the opening period, launched an all-out assault from behind the arc, dropping in three straight baskets in a two-minute span as the Trojans pulled away, 71-65.

The win moves Troy State just a game behind A-Sun leaders Samford (8-3) and Jacksonville (8-3). TSU is now 11-6 and 7-3 in conference play.

"All game Coach (Maestri) kept telling me to shoot the ball and it just started to happen," said Fletcher.

Pettway would follow a missed Fletcher lay-up for another basket. About a minute later, Fletcher knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the night and Pettway was on the receiving end of a diving assist by Donnie Pemberton to

drop in a layup and give TSU its biggest lead of the game with 4:33 left, 58-45.

"Ced Pettway played a great, great basketball game," said head coach Don Maestri. "He

shot the three well for us and had some big rebounds. But we knew we needed some more players to step up besides our seniors – Donnie, Lemayn (Wilson), and Robert (Rushing). One of the prime candidates tonight was Ben Fletcher and low and behold he was the one that stepped up and made the shots."

Fletcher finished with a game-high 22 points, while Pettway added a season best 18, shooting seven-of-10 from the floor.

Maestri said it was good for his team to face the slowed down offense of Mercer. Troy State led by just one at the half, 26-25.

"We had to play defense a lot longer tonight," he said. "It was a good experience for us to play this type of game, because we need to learn how to win against different styles of offense."

Fletcher echoed his head coach’s statement.

"We weren’t used to seeing that kind of offense played," he said. "It slowed us down and had our confidence down. But once we made a couple of shots that got our confidence level back up."

Rushing added 12 points for Troy State and Pemberton had 10.

Howard also grabbed 11 boards for Mercer (3-15, 1-8) and Aleem Muhammed scored 13 points.

TSU plays host to Stetson on Saturday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.