Defense stifling as Mercer rolls past Lipscomb

mlough@macon.comFebruary 14, 2014 

The story of the game was told after just one half, so maintaining dominance was obviously the focal point at halftime for the Mercer Bears.

They did just that en route to a 79-48 win Friday night over Lipscomb in A-Sun men’s basketball action at Hawkins Arena.

There was little suspense from the start of whether the Bears would take over first place in the A-Sun, thanks to East Tennessee State’s 89-81 win Thursday night over Florida Gulf Coast, knocking the Eagles from a tie with Mercer.

“Everybody on the team watched most of the game, or everybody talked about it,” Langston Hall said of Florida Gulf Coast’s loss. “We just know we had to come out here and take care of business, whether they won or not.”

Staying sharp and energetic when up by almost four touchdowns is a regular task for any team, except on this night for Mercer, which led 43-16 at halftime and kept it going after returning from the locker room.

The Bears had dunks from Daniel Coursey and Jake Gollon inside the first minute of the second half, and the margin cracked 30 for the first time, pretty much staying there or better there the rest of the way.

“That might’ve been as good as we’ve played in a while,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “They’re a very good offensive team. Coach (Casey) Alexander is a tremendous coach, and he finds weaknesses.”

There were few weaknesses to be found as the lead in the second half was below 30 for less than two minutes.

It was Lipscomb’s worst conference loss of the season, topping Mercer’s 21-point win almost a month ago. And it was the Bisons’ biggest margin of defeat this season.

“I thought we had an amazing defensive team effort,” Hoffman said. “The first half was off the chart, how our guys were connected and got in the gaps.”

Hall led Mercer with 20 points in 25 minutes, going 6-for-10 on 3-pointers. Darious Moten added 13 off the bench as six Bears scored at least five points. Monty Brown had a full night in 11 minutes with seven points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Ike Nwamu led the Bears with seven rebounds. Freshman Josh Williams topped the Bisons with 10 points.

Mercer picked up its 20th win, reaching that magic number for the third straight season, improving to 20-6 overall and 11-2 in A-Sun play. The Bears host Northern Kentucky on Sunday.

The game felt good for Mercer, which hadn’t been at home since Jan. 25 and an 87-49 win over Stetson.

Since then, the Bears were sharp in beating ETSU 90-77 but then hit a wall in losing 80-61 at USC Upstate. And they weren’t overly impressive in getting past last-place Kennesaw State by seven.

“I thought we got back to playing Mercer defense,” said Hall, whose team shot 57.1 percent in the first half to 14.3 for Lipscomb. “They shot 24 percent from the field. We keep defending like that, we’re going to go a long way.”

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