Mercer was not quite able to pull away from Chattanooga on Monday night at Hawkins Arena due in part of the Mocs free-throw shooting. That shooting, however, would end up playing in favor of the Bears in a much larger way.
Jordan Strawberry sank a pair of critical free throws with 17 seconds to play to secure a gritty 75-71 victory at Hawkins Arena. The Bears (9-9,2-3) have now won two SoCon games in a row after losing their first three in conference play.
The Bears took the lead for good in overtime on a Demetre Rivers jumper to lead 70-69 and pulled further ahead 71-69 on a Strawberry free throw. A Ria’n Holland jumper made it 73-69 prior to Chattanooga’s Rodney Chatman closing it to 71-69 before Strawberry’s shots from the charity stripe put things away.
The Mocs (6-13,0-6) Joshua Phillips forced overtime in the closing seconds of regulation by grabbling an offensive rebound to tie the game.
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Five who mattered
Desmond Ringer: Not only did he have a big night on the stat sheet with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but his strong play coming out of halftime brought some energy to the Bears bench and home crowd.
Jordan Strawberry: His 18 points came up big for Mercer in addition to him being six-of-seven from the free-throw line.
Holland: The Mocs could not do much to stop him as he drove the lane, scoring 13 points.
Stephon Jelks: Another Bear with a double-double on Monday, he had 10 points and 12 rebounds to help the Bears hold a 39-20 rebounding edge overall.
Makale Foreman: With 16 points, four from three-point range, his play by way of shooting from the outside was a big reason for the Mocs keeping it close and forcing overtime.
To the Wilderness: An eight-point Mercer lead through the game’s first eight minutes fizzled away by way of an offensive drought by the Bears in the first half. In a span of a little more than six minutes, the Bears were held scoreless. At the same time, UTC took advantage with a 10-0 run to go ahead 28-26 for the Mocs first lead of the game.
Ringing it: Mercer got on its way back to the lead to start the second half thanks to the play of Ringer. He layed in scores on two trips down the floor in a row to tie the game first at 30-30 and again at 32, getting some energy from the crowd.
Find the long shot: The Bears didn’t hit a three pointer in the first half. They needed little time after halftime to change that. Rivers drained one for a 35-32 Bears lead, and one by Jordan Strawberry extended the advantage of 42-35 with 16:10 to play. Mercer finished 3-of-12 from behind the three-point line on Monday night,
Charity help: Chattanooga spent a good share of time at the free-throw line on Monday, and took full advantage of the opportunity, making 15-of-22 shots. Mercer had 14 free-throw shots, making 12 of them.
Mercer starts a three-game road trip on Thursday at VMI. The Bears play at home again on Jan. 27 against The Citadel.