As Stephon Jelks laid in an uncontested shot as the buzzer sounded, it was the least excited he’d been all game. After an action-packed final minutes — including back-to-back reviews on inbound plays — Jelks scored Mercer’s 68th point of the game, knowing it was useless at that point.
The Bears fell 70-68 to Chattanooga Saturday in Hawkins Arena, dropping their record to 8-11 (2-4) on the season. Trailing by three points with under a minute remaining, Desmond Ringer nailed two free throws to cut Mercer’s deficit to 67-66.
On the ensuing inbound, Chattanooga turned the ball over — until referees reviewed the call and determined a Mercer player was the last to touch it.
Again, the Mocs inbounded the ball and nearly turned it over, but officials deemed there was not circumstantial evidence that the Chattanooga player stepped out of bounds.
After a foul by Mercer, Tre’ McLean nailed two free throws to extend Chattanooga’s lead to 69-66 with 14 seconds remaining.
Ria’n Holland’s attempt to tie the game was blocked, giving the Mocs a chance to essentially win the game with a free throw by Rodney Chatman with eight seconds remaining.
Neither team gained more than a six-point advantage in the first half until Mercer led 38-30 with less than 30 seconds remaining. But that momentum and lead quickly evaporated.
Chattanooga’s Greg Pryor scored a contested shot in the paint with less than five seconds remaining. Then, after a Mercer timeout, Johnathan Burroughs-Cook stole the inbound pass and scored a layup, giving the Mocs four points and only a 38-34 deficit at the break.
Chattanooga capitalized on the momentum swinger, outscoring Mercer 24-11 in the first eleven minutes of the second half to lead 58-49. Mercer responded with a quick 7-0 run to trail 58-56, but the Bears would never regain the lead.
STARS OF THE GAME:
Holland: The Bears’ leading scorer didn’t disappoint Saturday, scoring a team-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Holland scored 15 points in the second half and, at one point, had 15 of Mercer’s 20 points in the second half.
Desmond Ringer: The junior was the only other Bear in double-digit scoring, finishing with 10 points. He also added seven rebounds and drained the pair of free throws that gave Mercer a chance to tie the game near the end of regulation.
Jaylen Stowe: The sophomore guard provided a spark off the bench, scoring a season-high seven points.
STATS THAT POP:
It’s called the charity stripe for a reason: Mercer shot a season-high 94 percent from the free-throw line (16-of-17), 18 percentage points higher than its season average of 76 percent.
Tale of two halves shooting: The Bears shot 49 percent from the field in the outing, but there was a large disparity between the first and second half. Mercer shot less than 59 percent (17-of-29) from the field in the first half; in the second half, it shot more than 36 percent (8-of-22). Holland was responsible for five of Mercer’s eight field goals in the second half.
Staying in for the night: After draining 14 3-pointers Wednesday against Samford, the Bears shot only 2-of-17 from downtown Saturday. It’s the lowest amount of 3-pointers made in a single game for Mercer all season. Chattanooga shot 8-of-23 from the 3-point line.
Dam in the river: Demetre Rivers played only 20 minutes, the second-least amount of minutes he’s played in a game this season. Rivers picked up his second foul with 8:45 remaining in the first half. Entering the game, Rivers was second on the team in scoring with 12.0 per game.
Sparks off the bench: Led by Stowe, Mercer’s bench provided a spark with 20 points. Cory Kilby, Ryan Johnson, Rashad Lewis, Andrew Fishler and Stowe all played at least 10 minutes.
Losing the momentum: After Mercer gained its largest lead of the first half (38-30), Chattanooga scored four points in the final five seconds. The Mocs then started the second half on a 24-11 run to take its largest lead of the game, 58-49.
Holland on the strong start: “Energy and effort. We rebounded the ball pretty well. We defended well. We were playing with a lot of energy early in the game to set the tone.”
Holland on gaining confidence from the loss: “It lets us know that we can play with anybody in this conference. We just have to find ways to finish games and get those wins.”
Head coach Bob Hoffman on loss: “We just needed to make one more play. Wednesday night, we make the plays and win by three. [Saturday], we lose by two, and you feel completely different, but you played the same, and they gave the same effort. And that’s the hard thing for this team. We’ve had so many of those games so far.”
Hoffman on takeaway from game: “We know we can compete with [Chattanooga]. We know we can compete with everyone in the league, but we we weren’t able to finish. You look at our record, and you don’t think we can because of what our record is, but it’s a long season. The season’s not over.”
Hoffman on momentum shift at end of first half: “That was all my fault… We had two guys fall down when he shot the layup, and I guess there was a wet spot that we didn’t realize, and Jordan [Strawberry] ran right through the wet spot and gave him [another] layup… If we don’t give those four up, we win the game. Every possession matters.”
Hoffman on 3-point shooting: “It’s kind of been either feast or famine, but we have to still keep taking them.”