NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Mercer men’s basketball team closes out a two-game conference road swing Monday night with Belmont at the Curb Event Center with tip off at 8 p.m. (EST). Game Notes (pdf)
Mercer (3-9, 2-4 A-Sun), which has played nine of its 12 games on the road, is coming off an 83-66 loss Saturday at Lipscomb that saw the Bears break from the gate slowly and never recover, falling behind by as many as 17 points midway through the opening half. The Bisons eventually built a 35-point cushion and coasted throughout the remainder of the game.
The Bears will be bucking a trend if they are to win Monday night. Mercer is winless in five attempts against Belmont in Nashville. Belmont leads the all-time series 7-3, having won four in a row, and five of the last six meetings in a series that dates back to 1956. The two teams met in back-to-back seasons in the mid-50s, but had not faced one another again until Belmont joined the Atlantic Sun and the series resumed in 2002.
Belmont (7-7, 5-2 A-Sun), the preseason consensus pick of both the media and coaches to finish third in the Atlantic Sun, is currently tied for third with cross-town rival Lipscomb. The Bruins return four starters from last season’s 14-16 team that went 12-8 in conference play, finishing in the third spot. Belmont has won three in a row and four of its last five games, with the lone loss a narrow 69-67decision to Gardner-Webb.
The Bruins are shooting over 50 percent from the field, and rank either first or second in four Atlantic Sun offensive categories. Belmont has three players averaging double figures, led by junior Boomer Herndon’s 15.0 point average off the bench. Sophomore guard Justin Hare adds 14.3 points, while junior guard Josh Goodwin chips in 13.7 points.
“Belmont is always a difficult place for us to play,” said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. “We need to work hard and give a better effort than at Lipscomb. We don’t want to dig ourselves a hole. We’re looking for our leaders to step up and get these guys ready to play and give a great effort.”
The Bears are still without the services of freshman guard Montavious Waters as they continue to look for their first road win of the 2005-06 campaign. He is not expected back before at least the contest at Stetson after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot. The guard had started all seven games for the Bears since becoming eligible at the Oklahoma State game, averaging 7.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists before missing the Lipscomb game.
With Waters unavailable, sophomore Sam Dolan will get his second start of the season against the Bruins. Dolan earned his first career start at Lipscomb and responded by tying his career-high of 12 points, while grabbing five rebounds.
Junior guard Jacob Skogen, who had his three-game streak of scoring 20-plus points a game broken at Lipscomb, leads the Mercer attack, averaging 16.8 points per game, with senior guard Andrew Brown adding 12.3 points. Senior Will Emerson chips in 11.1 points and leads the squad with over six boards a game.