The last time Mercer beat Georgia Tech, the only people on the Bears’ bench Thursday night who were alive back then were head coach Bob Hoffman, associate head coach Spencer Wright and director of sports medicine Rob Murphy.
It came on Jan. 28, 1974, in Atlanta, with Mercer thumping Georgia Tech 102-85 en route to a 16-8 season under head coach Joe Dan Gold.
Head coaches Bill Bibb, Brad Siegfried, Bill Hodges and Mark Slonaker and eight teams have tried since then to get past the Yellow Jackets with no luck until Thursday night’s 65-59 win at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
It was a nice turnaround from a sluggish second half Tuesday that led to a 72-58 loss at Georgia.
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“We knew we could beat Georgia, we just came up a little short,” sophomore guard Langston Hall said. “We felt the same way about Georgia Tech. We believe we can win every game on our schedule.”
Up next is Tulsa (5-7, No. 199 RPI) on Wednesday and Navy (3-9, No. 326 RPI) on Friday, both on the road. Then improved Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson squads are at Mercer on Jan. 2 and Jan. 4 as A-Sun play resumes.
Beating Georgia Tech was the latest big school hump facing Mercer, although the Bears have lost 15 straight to Georgia.
The Bears have some notable victories in recent years. They opened the 2000-01 season with a win at Auburn and started off 2007-08 with the upset at No. 18 Southern California.
Mercer beat Alabama and Auburn in consecutive games in early 2008 and came close to a trifecta, but Georgia Tech overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to win 82-76 in overtime at the University Center.
Since then, there have been close calls or competitive outings against Providence (79-77 loss), Georgia Tech (85-74 and 87-78 losses), Georgia (56-53 and 72-58 losses), and Seton Hall (80-77 in overtime).
“I think for the program, it’s huge because it’s in-state,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “We beat Alabama and Auburn a couple years back back-to-back and ironically lost to Georgia Tech in overtime at home and then went to Dayton and played (head coach) Brian Gregory -- the fourth game of that first year of mine -- and they killed us.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest, because I hope we have some more left in us this year.”
The Bears got a huge game from post players Monty Brown and Daniel Coursey, as well as a contribution from T.J. Hallice.
Brown had a career-high 13 points in only 12 minutes, getting Mercer off to a good start with eight points in the first 15 minutes as the Bears established themselves inside.
Coursey added 10 points and three blocks in 20 minutes, and Hallice had two rebounds in two minutes.
Hall, playing in front of a few dozen family and friends only about 20 minutes from home, was succinct in analyzing Mercer’s post players.
“Coursey and Monty just were beasts inside,” he said. “They were beasts.
“At the beginning, they made some good moves, so we kept feeding it to them. They made good passes out, and kept finishing.”
The 23 points were the most for sophomores Brown and Coursey in the same game since they arrived at Mercer.
And they worked on countering 6-foot-11 center Daniel Miller and backup post players Julian Royal and Nate Hicks, Brown in particular adding a physical element inside.
“They had (Glen) Rice and a 6-11, 260-pound tree down low,” Mercer guard Bud Thomas said of Miller. “Georgia had the height, but not quite the weight.”
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory was duly impressed.
“I thought they were the more physical team,” he said. “I thought they were the more aggressive team once the ball got into the post. And they made smarter plays with the basketball when they got the ball in the post.”
Tickets are still available for two marquee events at Mercer.
There is still room for the visit Friday of No. 3 Notre Dame to the University Center in women’s basketball.
The Irish are 11-1 overall and host Longwood on Wednesday, the same day Mercer welcomes Winthrop.
Through Dec. 18’s games, Notre Dame was eighth nationally in scoring margin and field goal percentage. Guard Skylar Diggins was 12th in assists, 42nd in assist-turnover ratio, 45th in steals, 71st in field goal percentage and 89th in scoring.
For ticket information, call 301-5470.
Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones takes over the microphone at the University Center on Feb. 7 for the baseball program’s “First Pitch Classic.”
Tickets for the autograph session are $100 per person and are limited to the first 100 participants, while tickets for the dinner are $75 per person.
For ticket information, call 301-5218 or e-mail email@example.com.