Men’s basketball uses strong second half to pull away from Tigers


Image: Kyle Mullins

Ria’n Holland sinks a jump shot from behind the line.

The Mercer men’s basketball team improved to 2-1 in season play, 0-0 in conference, pulling away from the Tigers of Jackson State for an 86-58 victory.

From the opening tip, both the Bears(1-1, 0-0) and Tigers(1-0, 0-0) came out aggressive. For the Bears, it was drawing fouls on the inside and playing tough man-to-man defense. On the Tigers side, it was offensive rebounds and boxing out on both ends of the floor.

It was Jackson State’s guard Maurice Rivers that kept them in the game at the beginning, scoring 14 of the Tigers’ first 22 points. The Bears were able to maintain a small lead due to strong inside play, with nearly 50% of Mercer’s points coming from inside the paint.

Hayes Rule

With approximately 8-minutes to play, Bears’ forward Stephon Jelks slammed home an emphatic dunk that blew the roof off of Hawkins Arena. This sparked a 9-0 run for the Bears to extend its lead to 11.

At halftime, the Bears led 43 to 38. It was Jackson State’s efficient jump shooting and seven offensive rebounds that allowed them to hang around in the first half. Jump shots accounted for 71 percent of the Tiger’s scoring in the first half, including 40 percent of its points coming from 3-pointers.

The Bears’ found themselves locked in a tit-for-tat battle for the early part of the second half. It was a quick 10-2 Mercer run that forced a Jackson State timeout as the Bears extended their lead into double-digits, 53-43.

With just over 14-minutes to play, the Bears’ found themselves upby 9 and trying desperately to pull away from Jackson State and their scrappy play. It was the Mercer’s ability to get to the foul line that allowed them to put together a 5-minute, 19-4 run that stretched their lead out to 23.

The Bears never looked back. They played smart basketball down the stretch to maintain their lead and not allow the Tigers any chance of getting back into the ballgame.

For the second game in a row, the Bears were able to get nearly their entire roster game action, with 12 players on Mercer’s roster getting playing time.

When the buzzer finally sounded, it was the Bears on top 86-58, earning them their second convincing win of the year.

Next up, the Bears will hit the road to participate in the 2017 U.S. Virgin Island Paradise Jam. The Bears will take on Liberty University in the opening round Fridayat 12 p.m.