Mercer seeks revenge against Campbell

Almost a month has passed, and Mercer’s basketball teams have played plenty of basketball since, winning some games and losing some games.

But losing Jan. 3 at Campbell hasn’t been forgotten by either team.

Mercer gets its chance today to avenge that frustrating Saturday in Buies Creek, N.C., when Campbell visits for a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. with the women’s game.

Campbell swept that first meeting, with the Campbell women winning 56-50 and the Campbell men prevailing 72-57.

Mercer’s women might have more of a score to settle. The Bears are 10-9 overall and 6-4 in the A-Sun, with the other three conference losses coming to contenders Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont and Jacksonville.

Campbell, currently in 10th place, has just two conference victories, the other coming against ninth-place North Florida.

“Our unforced turnovers really kill us,” said senior LaToya Jackson, recalling in part the Bears’ 26 turnovers in the first meeting. “I think it’s just a matter of settling down.”

Since beating Mercer, Campbell lost four straight, beat North Florida, and has lost three in a row.

Mercer, meanwhile, may be finding a groove. The Bears have won four of six, losing in overtime to Florida Gulf Coast and by two at Belmont.

“Different people are doing different things; I feel like more people are scoring,” said senior Megan Lewis, whose team is 5-1 at home this season. “It’s just putting it together.”

Campbell leads the conference in rebounding margin, with Ashley Williamson’s 7.5 boards a game tied for fourth. Mercer has three of the top 15 scorers: Dominique Chism is second (15.6), Jackson is seventh (13.3) and Courtney Ford is 15th (11.2).

East Tennessee State is a half-game ahead of Florida Gulf Coast, followed by Belmont at 8-4, Mercer at 6-4, Jacksonville at 7-5 and Kennesaw State at 6-5.

The men’s game is a homecoming for Campbell assistant Michael Slonaker, the son of former Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker who graduated from Mount de Sales and played at Mercer from 2002-2007.

The men’s A-Sun race grew tighter this past weekend.

Former Dublin standout Ben Smith hit a 24-footer with 7.2 seconds left to force overtime and help Jacksonville come back to knock off East Tennessee State 82-72 Friday night.

That put the Dolphins alone at the top of the conference standings for less than two days. USC Upstate stunned the Dolphins 70-59 on Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla., dropping the Dolphins to 10-2 and into a tie with East Tennessee State, with Belmont a half-game back. Three teams are at .500: Mercer, Stetson and Campbell.

Campbell’s men are 5-4 since beating Mercer, including an 87-44 pounding of Kennesaw State on Saturday. That 43-point margin is the largest in any conference game this season and is only three points less than the 46 points Campbell had in its past five wins.

“They rebounded the ball and made shots, and they’re still making shots,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said of the first meeting. “They really do a good job of spacing the floor. I think they have a lot of offensive weapons. And they’re doing a good job of guarding people, up in you and playing pretty physical.”

Mercer won its first game without senior forward Calvin Henry, beating Kennesaw State 88-75 on Thursday. Henry suffered a torn medial collateral ligament Monday, and the Bears have had a few more practices to adjust to his absence.

The Bears will have to contain Jonathan Rodriguez, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting and averages 16.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Both figures are more than double that of any other Camels players.

“But they seem to have different guys get on a roll a little,” Hoffman said. “And I think they feed off of Rodriguez, who’s just blowing it up.”