Men’s basketball begins season 3-3

With a lavish Homecoming celebration, Mercer men’s basketball opened up the 2012-2013 season against Sewanee at Hawkins Arena. Predicted to finish first in the conference this season, the Bears have their sights set on the ultimate prize, a trip to the NCAA tournament and a chance to experience March Madness at its craziest.
In front of 3,497 fans, the Bears controlled the pace of the game and dominated Sewanee from the opening tip-off, defeating their opponent 65-36.
Mercer’s win marked the seventh-straight year the Orange and Black have won their season opener.  The win also extended Mercer’s winning streak to six, dating back to last season’s championship run in the College Insider Tournament.
The Bears got on the board 10 seconds into the game as junior Bud Thomas found fellow junior Jakob Gollon on the baseline for a wide open layup. Sewanee scored on its first possession to tie matters briefly, but Smith canned a three on the Bears’ next time down to give the hosts the advantage.
Mercer would hold that lead for the rest of the game, extending the lead to as many as 31 points before settling for the 65-36 win.
Senior Travis Smith led all players with 15 points in the victory. Smith’s 15 points came on the strength of 6-of-10 shooting from the field and marked his fourth-straight game in double-figure scoring.  His 15 points came in conjunction with four rebounds and four assists.
Ten total Mercer players ended up with their names in the scoring column for the win. Bud Thomas and sophomore T.J. Hallice each had nine points, while juniors Jakob Gollon and Darious Moten chipped in eight and six points, respectively.
Hallice’s nine points were earned on perfect four-of-four shooting from the field, while Thomas’ nine points reflected four-of-six shooting. 
After the emphatic win against Sewanee, the Bears then moved their focus to Oglethorpe. With just two days turn around, the Bears were looking to take their momentum from their win against Sewanee into the match against Oglethorpe.
The Bears did just this, holding their opponent to 25 points in a big 70-25 win to put the Orange and Black at 2-0 on the season.
Mercer held Oglethorpe scoreless for 9:25 pushing them towards an early 12-0 advantage.  By halftime, the Stormy Petrels had only registered 12 points, marking Mercer’s best defensive half since limiting USC Upstate to 11 points in the first half on February 4, 2012.
Mercer’s 25 points allowed on Monday night established the team’s best defensive performance since defeating Lander 47-23 on Jan. 25, 1972.
Sophomore Jibri Bryan paced the Bears with 12 points in the victory. Bryan’s 12 points were fueled by four-of-six shooting from three-point range in 20 minutes of work.  Junior guard Kevin Canevari also cracked double-figures, scoring a career-high 10 points in the win.
Ten Mercer players reached the scoring column in the victory.  Senior Travis Smith poured in eight points in 19 minutes of action, while freshman Lawrence Brown added eight of his own on three-of-four shooting in 12 minutes of play.
The Bears then headed to the Paradise Jam tournament in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. It was here where the mighty would fall, dropping three straight games in as many days to George Mason University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and Wake Forest.
The first match of the Paradise Jam saw Mercer drop a tough 49-52 decision to George Mason.
“We had some guys make some big plays, but we didn’t handle the ball well enough to win the game,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “There were things we did well, but we didn’t really deserve to win the game the way we played defense. We knew going into the game that they were a really good catch-and-shoot team, and that if we didn’t guard them we’d be in trouble.”
Mercer led by as many as six at multiple times in the second half, but the Patriots scored seven-straight points to take a 44-43 lead with 2:19 remaining.  That lead marked the Patriots first advantage in nearly 13 minutes of game time.
Senior Travis Smith led all scorers with 17 points in the losing effort. Smith’s 17 points came on five-of-12 shooting and paired with two rebounds, two steals and one assist.  Junior Daniel Coursey led the team in rebounding with five boards while also booking seven points and two blocks in 21 minutes.
Mercer junior Anthony White, Jr. provided a spark off the bench, scoring five points and tallying a rebound and an assist in 10 minutes of action.  His efforts helped the Orange and Black hold a 16-13 edge in bench scoring.
Despite a career-high scoring effort from junior forward Darious Moten, the Mercer men’s basketball team suffered a 62-36 loss to Illinois-Chicago in the second game of the tournament.
“They played really well,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “They had the most energy, which is unusual for us.  Right now we’ve got to figure ourselves out.”
Moten’s career-high eight points came on three-of-five shooting from the floor, including a thunderous driving two-hand slam in the first half.  His eight-point output tied senior guard Travis Smith for the team’s high point total.
Travis Smith’s eight points came in conjunction with five rebounds, an assist and a steal. Moten also added a rebound in his 12 minutes of court time.
In the third day of play, Mercer dropped yet another game to ACC opponent Wake Forest. The Bears lost by a narrow score of 71-74.
“It is what it is,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said.  “We had opportunities to close them out, but we didn’t get it done.  I just feel sorry for our guys because they deserved to win.”
Sophomore Jibri Bryan led the Bears with 14 points. Bryan’s 14 points were fueled by perfect four-of-four shooting from three-point range.  Gollon and Thomas also broke into double-figure scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively.  Gollon also produced six rebounds, five assists and four steals while Thomas collected three rebounds and notched a pair of assists.
Sophomore T.J. Hallice tied a career-high scoring effort with nine points while also chipping in six points, one assist and a block in the loss.
Nine Mercer players reached the scoring column in the loss as the Bears’ bench outscored the opponent’s reserves 32-22.
After three straight losses, the Bears needed a win in order to even out their record. They returned to Hawkins Arena to take on the Paladins from Furman University. The Bears moved back to their winning ways, picking up a dominant 73-46 win.
Junior center, Monty Brown scored a career-high 14 points to lead four Mercer players in double-figure scoring. Brown’s 14 points were earned on the strength of four-of-six shooting from the field and six-of-eight free throw shooting.
Junior Jakob Gollon added 11 points in the win while junior Daniel Coursey and senior Travis Smith each chipped in 10 points of their own.  The game marked the first time this season the Bears have placed four players in double-digit scoring.
Junior Langston Hall returned to the court and was phenomenal in his season debut, returning from injury with eight points, seven assists, two steals and two rebounds in 21 minutes of work.
The next match for the Bears is Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the University of New Mexico.