Georgia Tech had upstart Mercer right where it wanted the Bears — ahead by 18 in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets finally awakened, and a stronger presence inside as well as a variety of disruptive defensive switches helped Georgia Tech storm back for an 82-76 overtime win Saturday afternoon before an overflow homecoming crowd of 3,304 at the University Center.
Georgia Tech improved to 2-0 while Mercer fell to 3-1.
Forward Gani Lawal survived a 7-for-17 day at the free-throw line to score 27 points while Zach Peacock added 19 points. Alade Aminu had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Iman Shumpert chipped in 13.
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James Florence managed 26 points on 10-of-24 shooting for Mercer. E.J. Kusnyer came alive with 22 points, making 6-of-13 3-point attempts.
Daniel Emerson's nine rebounds helped Mercer to another lead on the glass, the smaller Bears taking a 41-39 rebounding edge.
It was a crushing loss for Mercer, which had knocked off Alabama and Auburn on the road and had an 18-point lead with 12:02 left but struggled with ball-control as Georgia Tech started enforcing its will inside.
The Bears were outscored 29-11 over the final 12:02 of regulation, and watched the Yellow Jackets score three times on their first four possessions of overtime to survive. Mercer finished with 28 turnovers to only 13 assists.
Tech trailed 8-0, and didn't tie the game until Peacock hit two freebies with 32.4 seconds left in regulation, Mercer finally unable to fend off a Yellow Jackets rally.
Aminu scored on a stuff and turnaround to open overtime and Lawal added an 11-footer for a 6-0 start and 75-69 lead. The Bears, who went the final 2:14 of regulation without a point, couldn't mount the comeback.
Tech It was a two-point game again when Florence returned all the momentum to Mercer’s side. He missed a shot that Aminu grabbed, then snuck back and stole the outlet and passed to a cutting BeJay Corley for a crowd-jazzing stuff less than five minutes into the second half.
That sparked the Bears, who started a 14-0 run.
Kusnyer hit a 3 from theft corner off of Florence’s skip pass, then took another pass from the corner and hit a 3 that went in, out and dropped straight through the net. Florence’s driving bucket between two Tech defenders gave Mercer a 52-40 lead and led to a quick Tech timeout with 13:30 left. Kusnyer buried another 3 and Florence added a layup and free throw for a 58-40 lead at the 12:02 mark.
But the Yellow Jackets turned up the heat defensively and Mercer’s offense struggled, managing only six points in the final 9:43.