MACON, Ga.- The Mercer men's basketball team used a balanced offensive attack, then held off a late surge by North Florida to down the Ospreys, 77-71, in Atlantic Sun Conference action Wednesday afternoon in the University Center.
Mercer (3-7, 2-2) jumped on top early, but neither team was able to pull away in a first half that featured seven ties, the last at 29-29 with just under three minutes left in the half. The Bears snapped a 24-24 tie with a five-point run keyed by Ross Alacqua's 3-pointer and a layup by Sam Dolan that pushed Mercer out to a five-point lead, at 29-24. UNF (3-8, 0-4 A-Sun) answered with back-to-back layups by junior Rashad Williams and guard Carl McNally, followed by McNally's free throw, that tied the contest at 29 apiece.
The Bears then reeled off an 11-2 run, fueled by four points apiece from guard Jacob Skogen and forward Sam Dolan, along with a 3-pointer by senior Andrew Brown, which allowed Mercer to take a 40-31 lead into intermission.
The second half was more of the same, with Mercer edging out to a 15-point lead, their largest of the contest, on three occasions - the last time on a jumper by Dolan with 14:17 left in the game. The Ospreys would not go away, and with the Bears committing 10 of their 19 turnovers in the second half, were able to close to within four, at 73-69, at the 1:15 mark. But Skogen and freshman Montavious Waters combined to hit four-of four free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Mercer shot a season-high 53.6 percent from the field, with Skogen scoring over 20 points for the second straight game. He tallied a game-high 24 points on nine-of-11 shooting from the field and pulled down seven rebounds. Senior Will Emerson added 12 points to go along with his eight rebounds, tying Waters for team rebounding honors, who also grabbed eight boards. Dolan came off the bench to equal his career-high with 12 points in 28 minutes of action. Waters added nine points with his season-high eight rebounds.
"We are a team that is growing and improving," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "This was an important win for us."
Mercer has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season and evens its record in the Atlantic Sun conference, as the Bears visit league-leading Florida Atlantic on Saturday, with tip off scheduled for 2 p.m. in FAU Arena.