There are times when one or two players have the hot hand. And there are occasions when several sets of hands are pretty warm.
Mercer had the latter.
Bud Thomas led a contingent of four Mercer players in double figures as the Bears used a strong first-half finish to get control for a 75-59 win Wednesday night over Stetson in A-Sun men’s basketball at the University Center.
“We just have really good passers on this team,” said sophomore Jake Gollon, who had 11 points. “We always play to our offense to the extent that when the defense plays a certain way, we’re going to take what they give us.
“It just so happened that spreading the ball around was the best way to put the ball in the hoop.”
Mercer’s inside game was rolling, with 34 points coming from the paint. That helped make up for an 18.8-percent night on 3-point shooting.
“Right,” Gollon said. “If we can win games like that, when we aren’t shooting the ball well from the 3, then I’m happy.”
Thomas topped the Bears with 16 points while Monty Brown added 13 on 9-of-10 shooting at the line, and Justin Cecil had 12.
That trio plus Gollon shot 18-of-31 from the floor, 58.1 percent.
“It was another big night for us passing the ball and making good plays,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “We can run guys in and out, and they’re performing at a pretty high level.”
Adam Pegg had 20 for Stetson, while Joel Naburgs had 12 and Chris Perez 11.
The Bears improved to 11-6 overall and 3-1 in A-Sun play while the Hatters dropped to 5-9 and 2-2.
Mercer is back on the road Saturday to face East Tennessee State, visiting USC Upstate two days later. Then the Bears are home for three straight against Kennesaw State, North Florida and Jacksonville starting Jan. 13.
Mercer held Stetson to 37.5 percent shooting, and it was the ninth time this season the Bears have held an opponent under 60 points.
“It’s scary,” Hoffman said with a wry smile. “Hey, I was defensive player of the year at (Oklahoma Baptist) once. That was only because I took charges, not because I could guard anybody.
“I thought we really did a good job on their shooters. They space the floor well, they have a great purpose in what they’re trying to accomplish. I thought our guys were up to the task.”
Stetson took a 23-21 lead with 5:42 left in the first half on Perez’s 3-pointer. But Mercer’s balance paved the way for the Bears to close the half on a 17-5 run -- five different Bears scored -- for a 36-28 halftime lead.
Mercer had a 21-12 rebound edge at halftime and nine assists on 14 baskets. The Hatters shot 42.3 percent, better than their season mark of 38.2. But Mercer’s 46.7 rate was 9.1 percentage points better than what Stetson had been giving up.
Daniel Coursey’s layup 59 seconds into the second half put the Bears up by double figures for good, and the lead was at least 13 for the final 14:55 and reached 20 for the first time at the 4:22 mark.
Stetson shot only 33.3 percent in the second half as Mercer’s defense stayed sharp.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve totally found our groove yet,” Gollon said. “We’re fighting and clawing hard to get the stops we’re getting. We hope to find a rhythm here in the middle of the season where some of the stuff comes naturally.
“Right now, we’re fighting and clawing to get the stops we’re getting. If we keep doing that, I’m real hopeful about our finish at the end of the year.”