Georgia pulls away from Mercer

mlough@macon.comDecember 21, 2011 

ATHENS -- Mercer and Georgia both turned in good games during the weekend far from home.

The Bulldogs brought that execution back to the Peach State, but the Bears didn’t.

Georgia got a 3-pointer in the final seconds to forge a tie at halftime and kept the momentum for a 72-58 win Tuesday night over Mercer at Stegemen Coliseum.

A cold spell in the second half doomed the Bears, who had an eight-point lead in the first half.

“We came out, and we couldn’t make a shot,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said of the final 20 minutes. “We had a bunch go in and out, and they had balls bounce in, bank in, tipped in.

“We tipped three (Georgia shots) in, I think. We’re better than we played (Tuesday) night, but they were a big part of that.”

Georgia head coach Mark Fox was happy with how the Bulldogs followed up Saturday’s win over Southern California with at least a good second half Tuesday against a team he was worried about.

“They’re a very well-coached team, and they have a lot of good players,” Fox said. “Coming into (Tuesday) night, I knew we would have to play well to win, and we were able to do that.”

Mercer fell to 7-5 with its second straight loss while Georgia improved to 6-5 with its second win in a row, coming in front of an announced crowd of 5,654.

Scoring balance was a key. Langston Hall had 16 for the Bears, with Daniel Coursey next at eight. Gerald Robinson topped the Bulldogs with 20 while Vincent Williams and Connor Nolte added 11 each.

Georgia outrebounded Mercer 41-34 overall, including 16-10 on the offensive end.

“Their offensive rebounding was better than I expected,” Hall said. “That’s not on our bigs; that’s on our guards, too.”

Mercer doubled up Georgia at 16-8 almost nine minutes into the game, but the Bulldogs took advantage of a Mercer cold spell to get back within a bucket.

The Bulldogs took the momentum into the locker room when Nolte drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with seven seconds left for a halftime tie at 30.

“Connor hit a big shot at the end of the half,” Robinson said. “We came out 0-0, with a new attitude, a new game. We had to keep the intensity up the second half, actually boost intensity.”

It was the beginning of the end for Mercer.

“We were in foul trouble,” Hoffman said. “We had already used our ‘use it or lose it’ timeout, or I would have subbed some guys in, and it hurt us.”

Georgia was more happy with the tie, considering it was outshot 42.3-38.7 percent, a gap that was much bigger until the late offensive flurry. The Bulldogs were only 1-of-6 from the line, but had a 21-17 rebound advantage.

Mercer’s foul trouble grew before two minutes had elapsed in the second half with Coursey and Jake Gollon picking up their third fouls. Coursey got his fourth at the 17:05 mark, Donte Williams making both free throw for a 35-30 Georgia lead.

The Bears stayed close despite a rough scoring night for Bud Thomas, who didn’t get his first points until 6:51 remained in the game. Hall continued to carry the Bears while the Bulldogs spread out their scoring.

“We got a little lackadaisical in the second half at times,” Hall said. “We got in too big of a hole.”

The Bears got only a 3-pointer from Hall through the first nine minutes of the half, which helped the Bulldogs grow the lead to 13 on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s steal and stuff at the 13:40 mark.

“We haven’t been in a stretch like that all year where we couldn’t score,” Hoffman said. “We got in early foul trouble in the second half and we couldn’t get out of it.”

And Georgia was outshooting Mercer 39.5-36.4 percent by the media timeout with 11:54 remaining.

The Bears were unable to warm up much the rest of the way, but did cut a 19-point deficit to 10 on Gollon’s three with 4:12 left.

“I think our defense played very well,” Fox said. “We held them to eight points through 11 minutes in the second half., which is a great pace. We had a lot of players pitching and contribute in the second half.”

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