KENNESAW, Ga. – The Mercer men's basketball team topped league-leading Kennesaw State, 77-70, Saturday night in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the KSU Convocation Center. The Bears avenged an earlier loss to the Owls suffered just nine days ago in Macon.
After guard Jacob Skogen opened the scoring with a 12-foot jumper in the lane, the Owls went on a 7-2 run, grabbing an early 7-4 lead. But the Bears battled back with a 9-2 run of their own to take a 13-7 lead with just over 13 minutes left in the opening half. Skogen's 3-pointer from the left side capped the run.
After the Owls closed the gap to just two, at 19-17 with under eight minutes to go, sophomore Sam Dolan hit one-of-two free throws, and following a 3-pointer by guard Montavious Waters from the right wing and a deuce by Andrew Brown from just inside the arc, the Bears took an eight-point lead, their largest of the opening stanza. A free throw by Skogen at the 1:20 mark gave Mercer (5-12, 4-7 A-Sun) a nine-point lead, but Kennesaw State's pressure resulted in five straight points, setting the 30-26 halftime lead for the Bears.
Despite playing on their home court, Kennesaw State (11-10, 9-3 A-Sun) shot only 34.4 percent from the field in the first half, including 2-of-12 from beyond the arc, while the Bears shot an even 40.0 percent. Senior guard Andrew Brown scored nine points to lead the Mercer offensive attack in the opening half, with Skogen adding eight. Dolan collected five first-half rebounds to lead both squads. Overall, Mercer out-rebounded KSU 24-16 in the first 20 minutes.
The team traded baskets over the first five minutes of the second half, with the Bears holding a 36-33 advantage at the 15:13 mark. Neither team could gain a comfortable cushion throughout the first 10 minutes of the half, with each team answering the other's surges. Sophomore Brian Pfohl scored off an assist from Skogen to give Mercer its largest second-half lead at 46-40, until Waters hit Aaron on a fast break for an easy layup, followed by a running jumper by Waters, and two Dolan free throws pushed Mercer's lead to 11, at 56-45. KSU ran off six straight before Will Emerson's putback gave the Bears a seven-point cushion. His defensive rebound on the other end and resulting free throws led to a nine-point lead. Waters then stole the ball and his layup gave Mercer a 62-51 lead with under four minutes left.
Back-to-back 3-pointers cut Mercer's lead to three at the 2:45 mark, then Waters dropped in a layup, and following an Owls' miss, an intentional foul was whistled on KSU's Andre Morgan as he dragged Waters to the floor. Waters hit one of the two resulting free throws to once again push the Bears out by seven. Golden Ingle followed with a trey, cutting the Bears' lead to four with 1:21 left. Mercer could not get the ball inbounds on the resulting possession, but Ingle missed a driving layup, with Brown grabbing the rebound. Brown's free throws pushed the Bears lead to six with just over a minute left in the contest.
Mercer hit 10-of-13 free throws inside the final 1:35 as Kennesaw State was forced to foul.
The Bears have won two in a row, after downing Stetson, 82-81, in DeLand on Tuesday.
After winning seven in a row, the Owls have now dropped two straight.
Five Bears reached double figures for the second straight contest, with Skogen dropping in 15 points. Brown added 13 points, while Pfohl chipped in 12 points. Waters and Emerson each dropped in 11 apiece, with Emerson collecting a game-high 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
The Owls' Golden Ingle notched a game-high 21 points.
The Bears return to action Monday night as they visit East Tennessee State for a 7 p.m. tip-off at the Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tenn.