TUSCLALOOSA, Ala. (School Release)- Mercer junior Daniel Coursey netted a career-high 20 points and senior Travis Smith added 14 in the second half to lead the men's basketball team to a sensational 66-59 win at Alabama on Saturday.
Mercer's win pushed its record to 7-6 and marked the conclusion of the non-conference regular season schedule. Alabama fell to 7-4 on the season.
"It was amazing how we persevered," Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. "We were determined. You can never count these young men out . . . their character is off the chart."
Coursey's career-high scoring effort was came on nine-of-14 shooting from the field and two-of-two aim at the free throw line. He also collected three rebounds, a block and a steal in the winning effort.
Mercer placed four players in double figures for the first time since its win over Furman on November 25. Smith finished with 17 points, while junior Jakob Gollon and Langston Hall each added 10. Gollon also produced six rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal while Hall chipped in seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block.
An extended scoring drought in the first half saw Mercer fall behind by as many as 12, but the Bears closed the opening period with a 9-3 surge to cut the deficit to five (27-22) at the break.
Mercer's momentum maintained during intermission and the Bears opened the second period on a 5-2 run to close within two. Alabama held strong, however, pushing their lead back to double-digits (39-29) with 14:42 to play.
With 11:48 to go, Alabama's lead was nine when Mercer turned to Smith to shake off a slow start and lead the comeback. Smith responded accordingly, torching the Crimson Tide for 11 points in 5:24 of game time to put Mercer on top, 50-49. Smith's blitz was fueled by four three-pointers and was the backbone of a 15-3 Mercer run that gave the team its first lead in over 26 minutes.
In the final five minutes, the game featured five tie scores and four lead changes. As the clock moved to under 40 seconds, the Bears' advantage was just one when Gollon dialed up his first three pointer of the game. Three Alabama missed shots and three Mercer free throws sealed Alabama's fate in the closing moments.
Mercer's win combined with the team's victory at Florida State as the season's second over a "Power Six" conference school. Hoffman has now led Mercer to five such wins in five seasons with the team.
The Bears' 7-6 record also solidified the second-straight year the team has posted a winning record in non-conference regular season play. The last time the program had back-to-back seasons with winning non-conference regular season record was in the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons.
In the game's first possession, Hall found Coursey on a back-door cut for a dunk. Moments later, Coursey connected on a baseline hook for a 4-2 Mercer lead.
Coursey's early start was sign of things to come, as the Savannah native carried Mercer through the first half with 10 points on five-of-seven shooting. Coursey's sharp aim helped offset Mercer's early lackluster shooting, as the team managed to hit just 33.3% (9-of-27) of its field goals in the first 20 minutes.
After Hall drained a three to put Mercer up 9-8 at the 13:00 mark, Mercer couldn't get a field goal to drop for the next 8:26 as Alabama moved out to a 22-11 lead.
Coursey stopped the bleeding with a layup at the 4:34 juncture that ended a streak of 10-straight Mercer missed shots. His bucket seemed to break the ice, as Mercer hit five of its final eight field goals of the period to climb within five at halftime.
Mercer returns to action hosting Stetson in the Atlantic Sun home opener on December 31. Game time against the Hatters is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.