The East Tennessee State Buccaneers traveled from Johnson City, Tennessee all the way to Macon, Georgia with one goal in mind: payback.
The Bears defeated ETSU in last season’s Southern Conference championship game, ending what was a stellar season for the Bucs. However, last year’s Mercer team was historically special. Would this year’s storyline be different?
This year’s game was, well, sloppy to say the least. The team’s combined to shoot just 26 percent from the floor, Mercer having fallen behind, 20-18.
However, the second half was a much different story. Mercer dominated the game for the final 20 minutes, outscoring the Bucs 46-21 in the second half.
When the buzzer sounded, Mercer had secured 64-41 victory. It was easily their most impressive and dominant win of conference play to this point.
(1) Shannon Titus won’t be stopped
Consider her stat sheet, well, stuffed. The sophomore guard notched 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals. Titus was not only her team’s leading scorer but was the game’s, as well. She also tied with Amanda Thompson for the most rebounds on the team. Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said her team needed more players stepping up. Titus has done just that and more.
(2) There are challenges ahead, but...
….Mercer is still unequivocally the best team in this conference -- until proven otherwise. The Bears sit in sole possession of first place in the SoCon, and it seems that the gap between Mercer and everyone else is quite stark. The team has a tough, three-game road challenge coming up. If Mercer can get through unscathed, I am not sure I can spot another loss on their schedule.
(3) Mercer needs more blowouts win for...next year?
Mercer is a team that is experienced. That will change next year. Mercer currently starts four seniors, all of whom will graduate this year. That means Mercer must use this season as a time not only to win but to groom younger players for potential bigger roles next season. It all starts with players like Shannon Titus, who has already begun that process. Can more young players follow her in footsteps?
Player of the Game: Shannon Titus (No. 21)
Titus secured her first career double-double, pulling down 12 rebounds to go along with her game-high of 17 points scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half, jumpstarting what was a dominant half for the Bears
Titus pulled down a career-high seven offensive rebounds, nearly as many as the entire ETSU roster (10)
(1) Head coach Susie Gardner on Titus stepping up...
“Shannon is so gifted and talented. Half of her battle has been confidence and now all of a sudden she is getting and-ones and she is getting to the rim. She is an amazing athlete and we are trying to show her how good she truly can be. She continues to work hard and her teammates are so excited for her because she is a quality human being and they want her to succeed.”
(2) Players talk about the challenges that lie ahead...
Thompson: “We know that every game is going to be difficult, and every game’s a challenge. I think we have Wofford next, so right now we’re just going to start focusing on that.
Titus: “We just focus on one game at a time. We don’t really focus on the game’s we’ve won, we sort just think we have Wofford next, we’re 0-0 right now, so we should just focus on them.”
(3) Gardner on getting younger players game experience...
“We have not been able to empty the bench this year. I feel bad because those players come to practice every day and work just as hard and you want them to have time on the court. It was a big positive at the end of the day to get all of the players some experience in conference play.”