SAVANNAH, Ga.- The Mercer men’s basketball team placed three players in double figures en route to downing Savannah State, 77-60, in non-conference action Monday night.
After a game delay of approximately 10 minutes because of a power outage, then a further problem with the shot clock, the Bears took an early 3-2 lead on guard Ross Alacqua’s 3-pointer from the left wing. A basket and free throw by Tigers’ leading scorer Javon Randolph gave Savannah State a brief 5-3 lead. However, Mercer (7-16) ran off 10 straight points to gain a 15-5 lead, forcing SSU coach Horace Brodnax to call a 30-second timeout at the 15:43 mark. Senior forward Will Emerson led the breakout, scoring seven of the 10 points.
Playing its sixth game in 12 days, Mercer built a 13-point advantage at 23-10 with over 11 minutes remaining in the opening half, but poor shot selection and turnovers plagued the Bears and led to a 10-0 run by the Tigers, as they cut the Mercer lead to three at the 7:10 mark. A Brian Pfohl putback of his own miss stopped the run with just under seven minutes remaining, then both teams went cold, scoring only one basket apiece over the next three minutes.
Mercer built an eight-point cushion twice inside the final two minutes of the half, and had an opportunity to go into intermission with possibly a 10-point lead. Following a timeout by coach Mark Slonaker with 25.3 seconds on the clock, the Bears turned the ball over without getting a shot off and Randolph hit a trey with just over 11 ticks remaining to set the 35-30 halftime score in favor of Mercer.
Emerson led all scorers at the break with 11 points while Andrew Brown added eight in the opening 20 minutes. Mercer shot 37.1 percent in the half, and hit all six free throws, while Savannah State hit 37.9 percent from the field.
Savannah State, (2-25) opened the second half on a 5-2 run and following a basket in the paint by sophomore Sam Dolan, Randolph hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut Mercer’s lead to a single point with 16:01 remaining. Montavious Waters hit a fastbreak layup to push the Bears back out by three, and Dolan’s strong post-up basket gave Mercer a five-point lead. Dolan was fouled as he went up for a slam with 14:19 left, hitting one-of-two from the charity stripe, putting the Bears up by six.
Mercer’s aggressive zone defense created problems for the Tigers and Emerson’s traditional three-point play followed by Brown’s 3-pointer gave the Bears a 10-point lead with under nine minutes to play. His second trey of the night, from the left wing, gave Mercer an 11-point lead with 6:50 left.
“Our zone defense did a good job of limiting their penetration in the second half,” said head coach Mark Slonaker.
Two consecutive runout baskets by Brown led to a 17-point lead by the Bears inside the final minute and set the final score.
Emerson led all scorers with 22 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, recording his 11th career double-double. Brown added 20 points, while Dolan notched his first double-double, with 17 points and 10 boards. Emerson recorded a career-high five blocks and Waters handed out a career-high seven assists.
Junior guard Ross Alacqua, getting his first start since the Gardner-Webb contest in place of the departed Jacob Skogen, added eight points.
Mercer returns to conference action for its final road trip this season as the Bears visit Jacksonville University on Friday with tip off at 7:30 p.m. at Swisher Gymnasium. The game is the second consecutive appearance in the A-Sun/CSS Game of the Week for Mercer.
The Bears close out their road schedule at league newcomer North Florida on Sunday.