Bears fall short in hunt for bid, Belmont wins A-Sun

The Mercer men’s basketball team, which finished the regular season 21-10, the first 20-win season in nine years, and was given the number two seed in the 2012 edition of the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.  The Bears’ first game was on Wednesday, Feb. 29 against the number seven Lipscomb Bison. Ironically enough, Mercer played on Feb. 29 the last time there was a leap day as well, losing to the Owls of Kennesaw State 61-65 on Feb. 29, 2008.

Lipscomb 53, Mercer 61
Forward Jakob Gollon made his first five shots en route to a 19-point, eight rebound performance against the number seven Lipscomb Bison in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Gollon, a redshirt-sophomore from Stevens Point, Wis., put on an Aaron Rodgers “belt” worthy game (and tournament), for the Mercer faithful. This included his parents, who have not gotten to seen Gollon play collegiately before the Lipscomb game.
Knotted up at 29-29 at halftime, Mercer would go 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the last 39 seconds of the game to put away the Bison. The Bears only shot 38 percent from the field, a stat line bolstered by Gollon’s 8-for-12 night. Likewise, Hoffman’s crew shot a mere 32.1 percent from long distance, a percentage again aided by Gollon’s 3-for-5 performance. However, the orange and black got it done when it came down to crunch time, shooting 84.6 percent from the free throw line on the night (14 of 17 total).
Sophomore Langston Hall contributed 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds while sophomore Bud Thomas, whose family was also in town, added 10 points and nine rebounds in the Bears’ victory. Junior transfer Travis Smith added 11 points and eight rebounds off of the bench. Gollon’s 19 points tied his career high. “I wish (Gollon) could play for me another 50 years,” Hoffman said, as ported by the Atlantic Sun insider blog. “He’s a special dude.”

FGCU 62, Mercer 58
Sophomores Langston Hall and Jakob Gollon combined for 33 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and four assists, yet Mercer could still not overcome an energetic Florida Gulf Coast team who had already eliminated the number three USC Upstate Trojans the night before.
Again tied at halftime at 30-30 against the Eagles, Mercer was again struggling from the floor, shooting  40.7 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long range (compared to FGCU’s 48 and 44.4, respectively), though Mercer was again near-perfect from the free throw line, shooting 5-of-6 (83.3 percent).
Things went from bad to worse in the second half, as the Bears shooting percentages went to 41.7 and 33.3 percent from three-point range. The one thing that kept the Bears afloat throughout the tournament so far, free throw shooting, abandoned the orange and black as they went 5 for 12 in the second half, including missing five in the last 4:39 of the game. During that same time span, Mercer committed three turnovers and missed three shots.

After the game, the Bears were still hopeful they could receive another opportunity to play in a tournament before the season’s end.