The Stetson men’s basketball team’s upset bid against league-leading Mercer fell short on Sunday, as the Bears used a 26-2 run to defeat the Hatters 73-52 on Senior Day at the Edmunds Center.
“I’m awfully proud of my four seniors,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said. “They really wanted to win this basketball game, unfortunately we came up short.”
The Hatters battled toe-to-toe with Mercer (22-7, 13-3 A-Sun), not trailing by more than five points and taking the lead on seven different occasions during the first 15:40 of the game. Stetson’s final lead of the first came when Andrews found Miller for a pull-up jumper on the break to make it 27-26 in favor of the Hatters.
“In the first half I thought we played pretty well,” said Williams. “Even though they shot 60 percent, the energy was there, the enthusiasm was there, and we were in the ball game.”
Unfortunately, Mercer ended the period with a 9-0 run over the final 3:41 to take a 35-27 lead into the break. The Hatters countered the Bears’ impressive 60.0 percent shooting from the floor in the first half, by forcing the usually sure-handed Mercer squad into making 12 turnovers over the first 20 minutes of play.
A three-pointer by Langston Hall sparked a 17-2 run to start the half, which game Mercer a 26-2 run over a span of more than 11 minutes, going back to the end of the first frame.
The first of two three-pointers by Stetson leading scorer Green put an end to the Mercer run, but at that point the Bears had extended their lead to 52-29. The Hatters got as close as 17 when redshirt-freshman Brian Pegg converted a traditional three-point play to make it 59-42 with 7:01 to play.
Mercer continued to make stops and execute well on the offensive end, cruising to the 73-52 win on Sunday afternoon. The Bears shot 58.0 percent from the floor and held the Hatters to just 35.1 percent shooting.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Williams said. “They came out and established momentum. They hit some shots and all of the sudden we were climbing up hill.”
Stetson was only able to turn Mercer over six times in the second half, and the Hatters finished with 15 turnovers of their own to even the score sheet.
Green led the Hatters with 16 points and seven rebounds in the defeat. Junior Kentwan Smith added 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, which makes the forward 14-of-18 over his last two outings. Pegg chipped in with nine points. Andrews totaled seven points and five assists, while Miller finished with seven points and six assists.
Hall led Mercer with 16 points and four steals in the win. Anthony White Jr. and Ike Nwamu added 12 and 11, respectively. Bud Thomas recorded a team high six assists for the Bears.
Stetson will finish regular season play next weekend, taking on Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb on the road. The Hatters will clinch a spot in the A-Sun Tournament with a win or a Kennesaw State loss on Thursday.