MACON, Ga.- Kennesaw State's Brent Ragsdale led all scorers with 23 points as the Owls handed Mercer its first home loss of the season, 63-57, in Atlantic Sun men's basketball action Thursday night in the University Center.
Mercer (3-11, 2-6 A-Sun) turned in its best defensive effort since the Bears' win over Savannah State Dec. 1, holding league-leader KSU to 63 points, but came up just short against the Owls. The Bears won the battle of the boards, out-rebounding Kennesaw State, 41-30, but committed 23 turnovers en route to dropping their fourth straight game.
"We played hard, but sometimes we didn't play smart," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "Kennesaw State got outstanding point guard play, and there were some tough matchups out there."
Neither team led by more than three points in the first five minutes of the contest, as the lead changed hands three times before Kennesaw State edged out to a 17-11 lead with just under 12 minutes left in the opening half. Mercer answered with a 5-0 run with junior guard Jacob Skogen dropping in a free throw and a bucket sandwiched around a layup by forward Will Emerson, cutting the Owls' lead to one midway through the opening half. But Kennesaw State, as they would most of the night, responded with an 18-5 run of their own over the next seven minutes, taking their largest lead of the night at 35-21 shortly before intermission. Ragsdale scored nine of his points and the Bears went cold from the field, hitting only 2-of-9 shots during the span.
The Bears rallied out of the break, cutting the Kennesaw State (10-8, 8-1 A-Sun) lead to four by controlling the inside, scoring eight points in the paint. A layup and free throw by Ragsdale temporarily ended the Mercer surge, but the Bears fought back, getting as close a three, at 58-55, at the 2:04 mark. After a turnover by Mercer, Ragsdale hit another jumper and Mercer could get no closer than five points over the waning moments.
Mercer, which hit one-of-15 from beyond the arc on the night, was led in scoring by Skogen, with 16 points. Sophomore Sam Dolan notched a career-high 13 points, while guard Andrew Brown added 12. Emerson recorded his third double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Next up for the Bears is East Tennessee State on Saturday, with tip off slated for 2 p.m. in the University Center. Mercer and ETSU have met only once - with the Buccaneers claiming a 65-58 victory in 1971.