Conference play nears end with important games looming
Heading into the home stretch of the 2012-2013 season, the Mercer men’s basketball team has reclaimed first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference no the heels of four wins and heads into their final four matches before the conference tournament with the momentum swinging their way.
In a thrilling overtime victory, the Bears defeated the JU Dolphins 67-64 on Feb. 7.
Junior Langston Hall led all scorers with a season-high 23 points while senior Travis Smith booked 14 and junior Jakob Gollon added 11. While Hall made clutch shots all night, it was Smith who dialed up the game’s biggest bucket.
After the Orange and Black and Jacksonville battled to a 58-58 tie in regulation, the teams found themselves in a 64-64 deadlock with under a minute to go in overtime. Hall found Smith on in the corner, who jumped over a rising defender and canned a deep three to put the Bears in front with 30 seconds remaining.
Jacksonville’s head coach Cliff Warren called a timeout and drew up a play, but the shot did not fall for the Dolphins.
After the impressive win against JU, the Bears took to their home court once more taking on the Ospreys of UNF on Feb. 9.
Three Mercer players reached double-figure scoring in the win, led by senior guard Travis Smith’s 13 points. Smith also added three rebounds and an assist in the winning effort.
Juniors Daniel Coursey and Bud Thomas each tallied 12 points, with Coursey collecting four rebounds and a block and Thomas registering six assists, four steals, two rebounds and a block.
Coursey’s classmate and counterpart at center, Monty Brown, also made considerable contributions to the Orange and Black victory. Brown piled up seven points, five blocks and four rebounds in 14 minutes of work.
The Bears came out on fire against the Ospreys out of the gate in the second period, scoring 16 points in the first six minutes to assume a 15-point advantage. North Florida couldn’t get closer than 11 the rest of the way as Mercer scorched the nets to the tune of 56% (14-of-25) shooting from the field in the second half.
After two competitive matches at home, the Bears took to the road where they were once again victorious. Bob Hoffmann and the men’s basketball team took on the USC Upstate Spartans on Feb. 14.
Mercer junior Bud Thomas score 18 points in the win. All of Thomas’ points came from three pointers in the first half.
Junior Jakob Gollon registered the second double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Junior Langston Hall netted nine, while senior Travis Smith and junior Monty Brown each scored eight.
Coursey got Mercer out to a 4-0 lead with layups on the first two possessions, and Thomas kept the momentum going with an impressive long-range barrage. Thomas canned four three pointers in the opening 10 minutes of play, helping the Orange and Black assume a nine-point lead midway through the half.
After the impressive victory at USC Upstate, Mercer traveled to Johnson City, Tenn. to take on ETSU on Feb 16.
Senior Travis Smith booked a team-high 16 points while juniors Langston Hall and Jakob Gollon contributed 15 and 12, respectively. ETSU saw its two-game winning streak end and fell to 9-19.
“That may have been the most determined victory in the five years I’ve been here,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “We had all kinds of guys contribute and it’s fun to coach young men who compete like we did tonight.”
With the win, Mercer senior Chris Smithsecured his spot as the program’s winningest player. In four years with the team, Smith has been a part of 76 victories, more than any other player in the 105-year history of the program.
Mercer returns to their home court on Feb. 21 to take on Lipscomb University at 7.pm. Two days later the Bears take on Northern Kentucky at Hawkins Arena at 4:30 p.m.