Since Steve Forbes took over as ETSU’s coach, however, the rivalry has turned decidedly one-sided. The Bucs have won the last eight meetings with the Bears as Forbes is 8-0 against Mercer’s Bob Hoffman.
The next meeting is Saturday at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Georgia. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m.
These days, the two schools are in the Southern Conference and while Forbes’ Bucs have always been in the upper echelon of the league, Mercer is struggling to stay afloat.
The Bears had lost seven of their last eight games before Thursday night’s 84-80 victory over Western Carolina. They come into the game 6-10 overall, 1-3 in the SoCon.
“We know it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game,” Forbes said. “They are always going to run a lot of different defenses and run a lot of sets on offense.”
The Bucs (14-4, 4-1) will be putting their six-game winning streak on the line. They’re coming off a 98-73 beatdown of The Citadel, a team that was leading the country in scoring. ETSU held the Bulldogs to almost 24 points below their season average.
“We’re locked in defensively now,” Forbes said.
The Bucs also made 14 shots from 3-point range to go along with three post players combining to shoot 10 for 14, and outrebounded The Citadel 50-31.
ETSU put the game away with a 24-3 run to start the second half.
Daivien Williamson continues to improve. ETSU’s freshman point guard had his best game against The Citadel with 24 points. He was 9 of 13 from the field.
Since Williamson was inserted into the starting lineup six games ago, the Bucs have gone 6-0.
NICE REBOUND GAME
After getting just four rebounds against Chattanooga, ETSU forward Jeromy Rodriguez pulled in 14 at The Citadel. He added 10 points for his 10th double-double of the season.
The Bears had to replace five starters, including 1,000-point scorers Stephon Jelks, Jordan Strawberry and Demetre Rivers.
Also gone are Ria’n Holland, who led Mercer in scoring last year, and Desmond Ringer, the school’s all-time leader in field-goal percentage.
Ross Cummings, a 6-foot-3 junior, leads the way this year, averaging 16.2 points per game. Djordje Dimitrijevic, a 6-2 Serbian guard, averages 11.9.
The Bears’ roster features 10 new players from last year.