MACON, Ga.- The men's basketball team opens its longest conference homestand in nearly four years Thursday as the Bears welcome Belmont to the University Center. Tip off is scheduled for 7.p.m. Game Notes (pdf)
Mercer (5-13, 4-8 A-Sun) is coming off a road swing that saw the Bears down Stetson, 82-81, in overtime on Jan. 24, knock off then league-leading Kennesaw State, 77-70, last Saturday night, and fall just short in its bid to make it three straight, dropping a hard-fought 84-81 decision at East Tennessee State.
"We want to build on the momentum of our successful road trip," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "It will be a difficult game for us, with Belmont coming off a huge win over Lipscomb. With a win here, they'll have an opportunity to move into first place."
The Bruins find themselves in a two-way tie for the third spot in the conference standings after defeating cross-town rival Lipscomb, 81-65, Tuesday night, avenging an earlier loss to the Bisons. Belmont (10-9, 8-4 A-Sun) was the preseason consensus pick of both the media and coaches to finish third in the Atlantic Sun. The Bruins return four starters from last season's 14-16 squad. The Bruins have won two in a row and six of their last eight games, with back-to-back losses on the road at Lipscomb and at Florida Atlantic. They lead the league in field-goal accuracy, shooting over 50 percent from the field, and rank either second or third in five other A-Sun offensive categories and feature four players averaging double figure scoring, led by sophomore guard Justin Hare's 15.2 points per game. Boomer Herndon adds 14.3 ppg., while junior guard Josh Goodwin chips in 13.2 points. Senior Brian Collins drops in 11 points and leads the team in assists, handing out an average of 4.3 a contest. Herndon, a transfer from Tennessee, ranks seventh in the conference in rebounding, pulling down 7.4 per game and is second in the A-Sun in blocked shots.
Belmont leads the all-time series 8-3, having won five in a row, and six of the last seven meetings. The Bruins downed Mercer, 96-60, earlier this season in Nashville on Jan. 16.
"The beat us pretty soundly the first time," added Slonaker. "We need to continue to improve defensively in order to compete."
Junior guard Jacob Skogen continues to lead the Mercer offensive attack, averaging 16.4 points per game. The Lookout Mountain, Ga. native is averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the last three games. Andrew Brown is averaging 13.7 points a game over the last three contests and senior Will Emerson is also on a roll, averaging a double-double, with 12.2 points and 10.2 rebounds over the last five games.