MACON, Ga. – Campbell's Ruell Pringle hit a driving layup with 1.6 seconds remaining to give the visiting Camels a 71-69 win past Mercer in both team's regular season finale Saturday afternoon in Atlantic Sun Conference action at the University Center.
Mercer (9-18, 8-12 A-Sun) had one final opportunity to pull out the win when, following a 30-second timeout, Sam Dolan inbounded the ball to senior Will Emerson who caught the ball just inside the top of the circle, stepped back beyond the arc, and his 3-point attempt fell just off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"We had a couple of great looks at the end," said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. "Turnovers really cost us, but we did a lot of things that gave us a chance to win."
After the Bears took an early 5-3 lead, Campbell (10-17, 9-11, A-Sun) ran out to a 24-14 lead at the 11:00 mark behind torrid 3-point shooting by the Camels, who hit six-of-seven treys in a six-minute span. But Mercer scratched their way back in, slicing the deficit to just one, at 28-27, with 7:20 remaining in the opening half as Emerson, Andrew Brown and Alacqua combined for 12 points in the Bears' run. Emerson knotted the score with a free throw at the 6:39 mark.
With just under five minutes left, Alacqua's 3-pointer gave Mercer a 33-32 advantage and its first lead since 17:36 on the clock. The Bears went on to build a nine-point advantage with over a minute remaining but the Camels scored five unanswered points to close out the half, setting the score at 41-37 at intermission.
Brown had 17 points at the break, while Dolan recorded six first-half rebounds, but the Bears committed 11 first-half turnovers.
Campbell opened the second half on an 11-0 run, again powered by strong shooting from the outside, with the Camels knocking down three 3-pointers inside the first four minutes. The Bears rallied again with Brown finding sophomore Shaddean Aaron for a layup, followed by three consecutive 3-pointers – two by Emerson and one by Brown -- giving Mercer a slim one-point lead that grew to six with 12:35 remaining in the game. Dolan's strong post move gave Mercer its largest lead of the second half, at 64-57, with just under seven minutes showing on the clock.
The Camels chipped away as Mercer committed costly turnovers but the Bears regained their composure and pushed out to a five-point margin with 1:46 remaining. But Latham scored four consecutive free throws and Pringle hit one of two freebies, tying the score at 69 apiece.
With the game tied for the fourth time and less than 10 ticks on the clock, Emerson found guard Alacqua on a beautiful back-door cut, but Alacqua was unable to convert the layup, and following a battle for the rebound, CU's Maurice Latham grabbed the ball and fed Pringle for the game-winning basket.
Mercer out-shot Campbell, 47.7 percent to 35.3 percent but committed 22 turnovers that led to 21 points for CU. The Camels won the battle of the boards, 39-34, on the afternoon.
Brown led all scorers with 22 points, going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and a perfect six-of-six from the free throw line before fouling out with 39 seconds remaining. Emerson added 16 points, while Alacqua chipped in 11 points.
Latham dropped in a team-high 18 points and collected a game-high eight rebounds for CU, with Eric Smith adding 14 points.
Next up for Mercer is the 2006 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship in Johnson City, Tenn., Thursday-Saturday, March 2-4, when the Bears will be competing in their fourth consecutive conference tournament and sixth in the last seven years. Mercer enters the tournament as the number eight seed and will face the number one seed in the first round on Thursday. The opponent and time of the quarterfinal game on Thursday will not be determined until after Sunday's conference games conclude.