Freshman guard Montavious Waters hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the right baseline to give the Mercer men’s basketball team a 74-73 win over Florida Atlantic in Atlantic Sun Conference action Tuesday night at the University Center.
Mercer (6-15, 5-10 A-Sun) had taken a 72-70 lead on senior Will Emerson’s traditional three-point play with 21 seconds remaining in the game, only to see FAU senior Rodney Webb drop in a 3-pointer from the left corner six seconds later, giving the Owls a one-point edge with 15 ticks on the clock.
Following Webb’s bucket, Mercer coach Mark Slonaker called a timeout to set the final play. Waters drove to the hoop and missed the shot, but the ball was kept alive by sophomore Sam Dolan, who missed the stickback, with Emerson grabbing the rebound but missing the point-blank attempt. The ball kicked out to the right side where Waters collected it and stuck it home as the horn sounded.
“It was a great win for us,” said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. “Montavious chased down the rebound and put it back. He had a great look the first time, but it wouldn’t go down. It all started with Sam (Dolan) keeping it alive. He made it happen."
Mercer started hot, hitting seven of its first nine shots and used a 12-0 run to break away from an early 7-6 lead, and sprinted to a 20-8 lead at the 13:35 mark of the opening stanza. But three straight turnovers by the Bears helped fuel a 10-2 run by Florida Atlantic midway through the half as the Owls cut the Bears’ lead to six at 22-16. FAU extended the run to 18-5, taking its first lead of the contest on a 3-pointer by DeAndre Rice, a basket by Brent Crews and another trey by David Anderson.
Florida Atlantic (11-11, 10-5 A-Sun) pushed out to a 35-27 lead before senior Andrew Brown finally broke the drought with a jumper at 3:43, with junior Jacob Skogen dropping in another basket. Junior Kevin Green drained another 3-pointer for the Owls before Emerson hit a layup, setting the halftime margin at 38-33 in favor of FAU.
Both teams struggled to open the second half with Mercer committing three consecutive turnovers. FAU missed two shots, committed a turnover and an offensive foul before Rodney Webb’s slam broke the ice with almost two and one-half minutes gone.
The Bears finally heated up again, going on a 15-0 run in just over a three-minute span, and, in the process, taking its first lead since the six minute mark of the first half on a 3-pointer by Andrew Brown at 44-43. Brown followed up by draining a trey from the right side and was fouled by Rice on the shot. He hit the free throw for a four-point play, giving Mercer a five-point cushion.
Mercer led by as many as nine points in the second half with FAU closing within two at the 7:05 mark, but Alacqua nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:30 remaining to give the Bears a 63-58 cushion. The Owls responded with five straight points capped by Quinton Young’s basket knotting the score at 63 apiece. His free throw gave Florida Atlantic a brief one-point lead at 64-63 with the ensuing free throw, but Mercer reclaimed the lead on a jumper by Brown and two Skogen free throws.
FAU freshman Carlos Monroe hit a leaner in the lane and a layup to put the Owls back on top by one and Rice’s two free throws gave the Owls a three-point lead with just over two minutes remaining. But the Bears answered with a layup by Dolan off a nice assist from Alacqua, cutting the deficit to 70-69, and setting up the final frantic seconds.
With the win, Mercer snapped a three-game losing streak and stopped Florida Atlantic’s two-game win streak.
Emerson and Brown shared team-high scoring honors with 17 apiece, while Skogen added 15 points and Waters chipped in 10 points and collected a career-high six steals.
Webb scored a game-high 22 points for Florida Atlantic.
The Bears return to action Friday night, playing host to Stetson as the two longest-tenured members of the Atlantic Sun Conference face each other in the A-Sun/CSS Game of the Week with tip off set for 7:30 in the University Center.