The Mercer men’s basketball team would deny the Owls of Kennesaw State University their first conference win in dramatic fashion in the University Center on a not-so-unlucky Friday the 13th. The Bears came away with the victory, 81-51, while shooting 62 percent from the field, 65 percent from long range and 100 percent from the charity stripe. It was raining threes throughout the game, as the orange and black went 13-for-20 from outside the arc.
Sophomore Langston Hall broke out of a recent slump in grand fashion, going 5 for 8 from the floor, 5 for 6 from three, 2 for 2 from the foul line, while adding seven rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore Daniel Coursey added 14 points, three steals, one block and one rebound. His most crowd-pleasing plays, however, was a pair of monster dunks, one in each half. Redshirt sophomore Jake Gollon was perfect on the night, adding 11 points while going 4 for 4 from the field, 2 for 2 from three-point distance, and 1 for 1 from the charity stripe. “The rivalry between us has been building for a few years,” said Gollon. “We were super pumped to play and I think the home fans really helped out with momentum. Glad we got the win,” he added.
The Bears would claim sole possession atop the Atlantic Sun Conference standings a little over a week later after beating the University of North Florida on Jan. 21. Despite countless questionable calls, the orange and black came away with a 69-58 victory over the Ospreys, which pushed them to first place after ETSU and Belmont lost earlier in the day.
Coursey led the way for the bears, adding 13 points in 15 minutes due to some early foul trouble. Coursey also added four blocks and five rebounds. Gollon notched 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal on the night. Junior college transfer Travis Smith provided a spark off of the bench, contributing 12 points in 15 minutes. Smith also had three rebounds. “It’s just unbelievable, they compete and they find ways to get it done,” head coach Bob Hoffman told mercerbears.com. “There are a lot of games left, but we have a lot of guys who can make plays and we are continuing to play hard,” he added.
The victory over UNF gives Mercer a 14-7 record overall, with a 6-2 conference record, which is the best start of any team under Coach Hoffman and the best start for Mercer since the 2004-05 campaign. “We are still an undefeated team at home during conference play,” said sophomore guard Bud Thomas. “UNF is a good team with a lot of good players and to defend our home court and move into first place is important,” he added.
There is no rest for the Bears, however, as they play against Jacksonville University only two days later. The game against Jacksonville will cap off a three-game home stretch. Hoffman’s team will then travel to Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast Atlantic before returning to the UC for games against USC Upstate, who just beat Belmont and ETSU on Feb. 4 and Feb. 6 respectively.
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