Defense has been the name of the game for Mercer this season, but the Bears are a pretty good team with the ball, too.
Mercer had one of its best shooting nights of the season and finished strong for a 75-65 win Monday night over Jacksonville in A-Sun men’s basketball at the University Center.
All seven Mercer players who played at least 10 minutes shot better than 50 percent, and Mercer connected on 45.5 percent of its 3-pointers. Of course, Mercer also had 18 turnovers against Jacksonville’s pressure. If the Bears held on to the ball, they fared well.
“We shot a really high percentage, but at the same time, we turned the ball over more than usual,” Mercer forward Jake Gollon said. “We let their pressure get to us a little bit, which is sort of uncharacteristic for our team.”
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Mercer improved to 15-7 overall and 7-2 in conference play with its fourth straight win. Jacksonville fell to 4-16 and 2-7 with the end of a two-game winning streak.
Justin Cecil’s 16 points led Mercer’s contingent of four in double figures. Langston Hall was 4-for-5 from the floor for 15 points and Jake Gollon 7-of-10 at the line for 13. Daniel Coursey added 11 points.
Jacksonville also had four in double figures, led by 14 each from Glenn Powell and Aloys Cabell. Delwan Graham had 11 off the bench, and Tevin Galvin had 10.
Jacksonville overcame a seven-point halftime deficit with a good second-half start and took a two-point lead with an 8-0 run.
“I think we started the second half with four or five possessions when we didn’t even get a shot up,” Gollon said. “It doesn’t matter how good our percentage is if we’re not able to put a shot up.”
The 49-47 advantage with 10:40 left was Jacksonville’s first lead since it scored the game’s first bucket.
“Those guys play hard,” Gollon said. “Their record doesn’t indicate how hard those guys play.”
The Dolphins, however, couldn’t maintain the momentum.
Mercer five-minute drought was finally broken on Travis Smith’s 3-pointer, which put the Bears back on top.
The lead was only one after a pair of Graham free throws at the 9:21 mark, and Mercer had apparently had enough of the one-possession scoring margin. Coursey’s putback of Smith’s miss started the Bears on a 9-0 run that put them ahead 61-51 with 5:45 left.
“I thought we handled it when the game was on the line pretty good,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said of Jacksonville’s pressure. “I thought, for the most part, we took care of the ball and understood what we were trying to get.”
Hall’s drive gave Mercer a 67-56 lead at the 2:10 mark, and Jacksonville gained no more ground.
Mercer made its first six shots and had a 10-point lead less than six minutes into the game. And Jacksonville, as expected, chipped away and pulled to within one at the 7:50 mark.
The Bears’ 7-0 run gave them a little cushion, and they maintained that for a 41-34 halftime lead, Cecil leading the way with 14 points.
Mercer outshot Jacksonville 66.7-48.1 percent in the first 20 minutes but had four fewer rebounds.
The Bears couldn’t keep the hot hands early on in the second half, and Jacksonville took advantage, setting up what looked to be just another normal Mercer-Jacksonville ending until the Bears took control late.
Mercer’s 63.9-percent night from the floor was the second best of the season, just behind 66.7 percent at Navy.
“We had guys coming in when their number was called and making big plays,” Gollon said. “That’s what makes a difference in a game like this, when you’re not exactly running your offense like you’d like to be and you’re turning the ball over.
“It comes down to who’s going to play tougher.”