It took only a few minutes for visiting Kennesaw State to climb back within striking distance against Mercer on Friday night at the University Center.
The Bears needed about the same amount of time to put the visiting Owls away, overwhelming them to claim a convincing 81-51 win in A-Sun men’s basketball.
Spurred by hot shooting from the perimeter, Mercer used a 12-0 second-half scoring surge to subdue Kennesaw State. The Bears shot 65 percent from 3-point range, converting 13-of-20 shots. Langston Hall led the way, making five 3-pointers in six attempts en route to 17 points. Hall also had seven points and seven rebounds.
“My teammates just kept feeding me the ball and giving me the ball in good places, and I was able to knock down shots,” Hall said.
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Mercer’s scoring efforts were a prime example of a team effort, with a total of nine Bears scoring at least a point. Other than Hall, two other Bears scored in double figures with Justin Cecil adding 13 and Jake Gollon 11.
“We try to take what the defense gives us and play out of that,” Gollon said. “They gave us a lot of open threes. Every one of our guys shot the ball with confidence (Friday), and the ball went in the hole.”
It’s the second straight win and fifth win in the past six for the Bears, who improved to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in A-Sun play.
Mercer led 46-30 with less than 14 minutes to play after its decisive run and coasted from there. While the Bears continued to pour on the points, the Owls weren’t able to rally, due in part to Mercer’s defense limiting them offensively, forcing tough and out-of-position shots. While Mercer was hot from behind the 3-point arc, KSU was not, shooting a paltry 17 percent, and 36 percent overall.
“The coaches were just telling us to slow down and stop pushing it so much and making dumb mistakes we shouldn’t make,” Hall said. “We just took our time, played better defense and didn’t let them get their points in transition.”
Mercer clamped down defensively on the Owls’ Markeith Cummings, who entered averaging 16 points per game. He was held to 10 on Friday.
“Holding him to 10 was pretty big,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said.
Trailing 32-21 coming out of halftime, the visitors clawed their way back. Two quick scores followed by a Spencer Dixon jumper cut a double-digit deficit to 34-28, and a bucket from Delbert Love moments later reduced the Mercer lead to 34-30, the Bears’ smallest margin since the opening minutes when they raced to a quick 11-0 lead.
Kennesaw State’s prosperity, however, was over about as quickly as it began.
The Bears were able to successfully execute their offense against the Owls, getting open shots from the perimeter and from inside the paint. The result was control of the offensive end of the floor, which turned momentum right back into the hands of the Bears, whose 12-0 run all but put the game away.
Up only 34-30, baskets by Daniel Coursey and Cecil shot got the Bears back on track, which was only the start as the Bears started to cruise toward that 46-30 advantage.
“We knew if we could stay consistent, we could turn their pressure into easy buckets for us,” Gollon said. “And that’s what exactly what we did.”