Hall sparks Mercer Bears to overtime victory

Mark Hall had more fouls than shot attempts and more assists than points through the 27 minutes he played in regulation.

The five minutes that followed were his best of the season.

Hall was perfect from the free-throw line in six attempts and drained his lone shot, a 3-pointer, to help Mercer to a 101-98 win over Stetson in overtime Sunday.

“Clutch,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said to Hall as the sophomore guard walked past him afterward. “I’m gonna call you ‘Clutch.’ ”

Hall was certainly that after finishing the regulation with four fouls, three assists, two missed shots and one point.

“Mark Hall was fantastic in overtime,” Stetson head coach Derek Waugh said. “He was one of the big differences.”

The Bears (10-8, 4-3 A-Sun) trailed 88-87 in overtime when James Florence drove and passed the ball to the left wing, where Hall heard encouragement from the bench to shoot and promptly drained a 3-pointer to return some momentum to Mercer.

“Coach said to ‘Rip it up,’ ” Hall said. “They had the confidence in me to knock it down.”

Stetson (8-9, 5-4) tied the game a few moments later, but Florence countered with a 3-pointer for the lead.

Mercer led 97-95 and 99-98 when Hall went 2-for-2 from the line twice, the second time coming right after Stetson’s Mark Lohuis drained an off-balance 3-pointer from the left corner.

The second trip cinched the win with 8.6 seconds left.

“I haven’t shot free throws in a while in a game, “ said Hall, who went five games without going to the line until Sunday. “Just have confidence in yourself and let it go.”

It was the third straight Mercer-Stetson game decided by three points or fewer and ninth in the past 18 meetings decided by four points or fewer.

Stetson sizzled from 3-point range to keep Mercer from pulling away. The Hatters were 14-of-33, led by a 6-of-9 day from Eric Diaz from long range en route to a career-high 27 points. James Florence mostly drove his way to 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting.

Calvin Henry recorded his third straight double-double with 16 points — 15 in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting — and 12 rebounds. Daniel Emerson added 15 points and E.J. Kusnyer 12 as Mercer won its third straight.

Mercer led by 14 less than three minutes into the second half, but Stetson made it a five-point game with 10 minutes left. There was a sense of familiarity to the situation. Mercer led Georgia Tech by 18 points in November, lost its lead and then lost in overtime.

“It was the same situation,” Emerson said. “We lost all the momentum, the crowd was kind of out it. It was up to us to regain what we had in the first half.”

Hall’s 3-pointer gave Mercer a 90-88 lead. Emerson’s steal and layup helped revive the Bears, and Hall made his first two foul shots of the overtime with 44.8 seconds left for a 96-91 lead.

Stetson was 3-for-13 shooting to start the game, but all were 3-pointers. Mercer took its first double-digit lead with 7:04 left on two Florence free throws.

Mercer scored six points in the final 50 seconds for a 43-31 halftime lead, as well as a 24-12 rebounding edge.

“I would like to win by 20,” Hoffman said. “But I think maybe for the mental state of getting better, it helped us.”