JACKSONVILE, Fla.- Andrew Brown and Ross Alacqua combined for five points inside the final 36 seconds of overtime as the Mercer men's basketball team opened its final road swing of the season with a 93-90 overtime decision past Jacksonville University Friday night in Atlantic Sun Conference action at Swisher Gymnasium.
The Bears struggled to get untracked offensively in the early going, missing shots or committing turnovers in three of its first four possessions, as Jacksonville (1-24, 1-17 A-Sun) sprinted out to an 8-2 lead on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers by seniors Antonio Cool and Aubrey Conerly, sandwiched around a basket by Mario Brown.
Andrew Brown's running jumper in the lane pulled Mercer (8-16, 6-11 A-Sun) back to within one, at 8-7, with 16 minutes remaining in the opening half. His 3-pointer knotted the score at 10 apiece and sophomore Brian Pfohl's post-up bucket gave the Bears their first lead, at 12-10.
Injuries slowed the Mercer attack - with Mercer clinging to the two-point lead at the 13:14 mark, freshman Montavious Waters was fouled on a drive to the basket and slammed hard into the wall behind the goal. The guard from Albany, Ga. did not return. Shortly thereafter, Pfohl also exited the contest with an injury.
The teams continued to battle on even terms the remainder of the half, with neither team able to build a comfortable cushion. The Dolphins opened up a pair of three-point leads inside the final two minutes of the half, the first on freshman guard Evan Jefferson's 3-pointer. The Bears battled back on both occasions, on a jumper by Emerson, then Dolan rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Michael Slonaker, and slammed it home with five seconds remaining on the clock to give Mercer the 40-39 halftime edge.
Andrew Brown led all scorers at the break, with 14 points and Dolan had a game-high six rebounds at the break.
Following a Jacksonville basket and two Shaddean Aaron free throws to open the second stanza, Brown caught fire, scoring eight straight points for the Bears, then following an Alacqua basket, Dolan took over on the inside, scoring five straight, to give Mercer a 10-point cushion with 12 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Dolphins rallied with an 8-0 run just two minutes later, cutting the Bears' lead to only two with over nine minutes on the clock. Two free throws by Hrvoje Pervan pushed the lead back to six, but JU answered on jumpers by Cool and Marcus Allen, then Brown nailed a 15-footer, but Allen recorded a three-point play the old-fashioned way to tie the contest for the seventh time.
A long-range bomb by Andrew Brown with 3:36 remaining gave Mercer a four-point lead, but Allen's put-back pulled the Dolphins to within two, at 80-78. A Jefferson trey put JU ahead by one with just under three minutes left. Alacqua knotted the score for the 10th time by hitting one-of-two free throws. Cool answered with an inside bucket followed by two clutch free throws by Shaddean Aaron that put the teams even for the 11th time with 1:02 remaining.
Andrew Brown was fouled on a drive to the basket and stepped to the line with 4.8 seconds on the clock, but missed both ends, giving the Dolphins a final opportunity to pull out a win. Allen took a pass and fired a shot at the buzzer that was short, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime Brown drained a 3-pointer with 35.5 seconds left in the extra period and Alacqua hit two free throws with 8.4 seconds on the clock that gave the Bears the victory.
"This was just a gritty, valiant effort," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "To lose both Montavious and Brian and still battle back for the win was outstanding."
Brown scored a career-high 35 points to lead all scorers, while Dolan and Emerson each posted double-doubles. Dolan scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and Emerson dropped in 14 points and grabbed 10 boards.
Allen added 30 points in the losing effort for Jacksonville.
Mercer has won two in a row on the season and the Bears have won four in a row and seven of the last eight games vs. Jacksonville.
The win gave Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker his 103rd victory at the helm of the Bears' program, tying him with James Cowan for third place on the school's all-time wins list.
The Bears close out their road season at league newcomer North Florida on Sunday, with tip off scheduled for 2 p.m. at UNF Arena.