Mercer blows big lead, loses heartbreaker to Georgia Tech

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.

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.