Mercer 65, Georgia Tech 59

Mercer finally got its breakthrough victory over one of
Georgia’s major college teams.

Travis Smith went 6 of 6 at the foul line in the final minute
and Mercer overcame a seven-point second half deficit, snapping a
nine-game losing streak to in-state foe Georgia Tech with a 65-59
victory Thursday night.

Monty Brown scored a career-best 13 points off the bench to lead
four double-figure scorers for Mercer (8-5). Glen Rice Jr. had 19
points and 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (7-5).

”This is a big victory for us and something for us to build
on,” Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. ”I’m just thrilled to see
these guys enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

Mercer’s last victory over Tech had come on Jan. 28, 1974, when
the Bears won 102-85 in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets had won 20 of
the past 22 meetings in a series that goes back to 1909.

”This isn’t just for us,” the Bears’ Bud Thomas said. ”This
is for Mercer and all the teams that came before us.”

Mercer led Georgia by eight points in the first half at Athens
on Tuesday before losing 72-58. It was the 15th straight loss to
the Bulldogs for Mercer, which almost upset them last season before
losing 56-53.

The Bears, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, also had
some close games against Tech in recent years. This time Mercer
broke through.

Tech went on an 11-3 run to go up 51-44 with 7:02 left to play.
But Mercer closed the game on a 21-8 run. After Rice’s two free
throws with 1:16 left got Tech back within two points, Mercer went
7 of 8 at the foul line to close out the win. The Yellow Jackets’
only score in the final minute was a 3-pointer by Jason Morris.

”Give Mercer credit,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said.
”I said before the game that they were a very good team. I knew
this was going to be a tough game.”

Thomas had 12 points for Mercer, while Jakob Gollon and Daniel
Coursey each scored 10. Langston Hall and Gollon each had five
assists and Thomas grabbed seven rebounds.

Morris had 10 points for Tech, which was just 4 of 16 on
3-pointers and committed 16 turnovers.

”They were tougher than we were,” Gregory said. ”We got what
we deserved. They were the more physical team.”

It was the first loss for the Yellow Jackets in five games in
the Arena at Gwinnett Center, about 20 miles from campus. Tech,
which is playing its other games at Philips Arena, is without a
true home court this season as a new on-campus arena is built.

Neither team led by more than four points in the first half,
which ended with Mercer ahead 31-30. Brown and Tech’s Kammeon
Holsey each had eight first-half points.

Mercer hit four of its first six 3-point attempts and led 24-20
midway through the first half before Tech scored seven straight
points to go up 27-24. The Bears finished the half on a 7-3 run,
though, with Brown getting their final four points.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Tech, which
doesn’t play again until it goes to New York to face Fordham next
Thursday.

The victory over Tech capped a tough nonconference stretch for
Mercer, which lost in overtime to Seton Hall 80-77 on Sunday. The
Bears play at Tulsa next Wednesday.