DELAND, Fla. – Mercer ended the first half of its conference season on a high note by defeating Stetson, 82-81, in overtime at the Edmunds Center on Tuesday night.
The Bears got off to a quick start in DeLand aided by solid defense and strong rebounding. The Hatters scored the first points of the game off of senior Anthony Register's three-point play. The Bears then proceeded to go on a 15-0 run over the next seven minutes, taking a 15-3 lead at the 11-minute mark. Sophomore Shaddean Aaron paced the Mercer run by dropping in five points.
Mercer and Stetson traded spurts for the remainder of the half as the Bears took a 38-28 lead into intermission. The Bears out-rebounded the Hatters 29-18 in the first half. Mercer shot 42 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes and held Stetson to a 27 percent clip.
Junior Ross Alacqua paced Mercer in the first half, draining a pair of deep three-pointers en route to 10 points. Senior Will Emerson chipped in six points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists. Register led the Hatters with 15 first half points.
Stetson came out of the locker room strong, outscoring the Bears 11-4 over the first three minutes of the second half - narrowing the margin to 42-39. Mercer responded with a 13-3 run of their own in which senior Jacob Skogen poured in seven points and sophomore Sam Dolan added four to extend the Bears' lead back to 12.
The Hatters fought back to even up the score at 54-54 with 10:40 remaining in the second half. Senior Andrew Brown answered with a lay-up and Alacqua followed with another three, giving the Bears a 59-54 lead.
Each team traded baskets for the next six minutes as Mercer enjoyed a 68-66 lead with four minutes left. Emerson then extended the Bears' lead to four with a hard earned layup.
Gabe McMillan earned a three-point play the old-fashioned way to pull the Hatters within two at 74-72. E.J. Gordon then hit a jumper in the paint to tie the score with one minute remaining. On the Bears next possession Emerson fed the ball into the post and Dolan knocked home a floater in the lane to put Mercer back up, 76-74.
Gordon went to the free-throw line with 15 seconds remaining and made a pair to even up the score again. Following a Mercer turnover, Gordon missed a three-pointer sending the game into overtime.
Mercer took an early advantage in the extra frame, 80-76, as Emerson and Brown each scored. Stetson responded with four points to even up the score capped by a pair of Register free throws.
Emerson answered with a lay-up off a nice feed from Dolan giving Mercer an 82-80 advantage and a lead they would not relinquish. Register then hit one-of-two from the line pulling the Hatters within one.
Following a Mercer miss with 10 seconds left, the Hatters raced the ball up the court and freshman Eric Diaz missed two shots from point blank range, giving Mercer the victory.
"This win definitely helps our confidence and gives us a big lift as we head to Kennesaw," said head coach Mark Slonaker.
Mercer finished the game shooting 46 percent from the field and enjoyed a 46-39 rebounding edge. Alacqua led the Bears with 18 points hitting four three-pointers and going a perfect 6-6 from the line. Skogen chipped in with 14 points and Dolan added 14 and nine rebounds. Emerson notched his fourth double-double of the season as he poured in 14 points to go along with 14 boards. Brown dropped in 12 points and provided much needed senior leadership.
Register led the Hatters with 27 points on the night.
The Bears will be in action next on Saturday, Jan. 28 as they try to avenge last week's loss to Kennesaw State.