JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (School Release) - Four Mercer players scored in double figures and the men's basketball team withstood a furious East Tennessee State comeback effort on Saturday afternoon at the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. The Bears' 71-54 win was the team's sixth-straight triumph and sent the Orange and Black to 18-9 (11-3 A-Sun) on the year.
Senior Travis Smith booked a team-high 16 points while juniors Langston Hall and Jakob Gollon contributed 15 and 12, respectively. ETSU saw its two-game winning streak end and fell to 9-19 (7-8 A-Sun).
"That may have been the most determined victory in the five years I've been here," Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. "We had all kinds of guys contribute and it's fun to coach young men who compete like we did tonight."
With the win, Mercer senior Chris Smith secured his spot as the program's winningest player. In four years with the team, Smith has been a part of 76 victories, more than any other player in the 105 year history of the program.
"Chris has worked his tail off to get opportunities," Hoffman said. "He's an unbelievable student and we're blessed that he chose to be a Mercer Bear. Every day he makes a difference in our program."
After ETSU took a 2-0 lead, Mercer's defense clamped down and held the Bucs without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes of game time as the Bears mounted a 17-3 advantage. During that stretch, the Bears' offense was powered by long-range accuracy as the team connected on five of their first nine three pointers.
When the Bucs finally ended their scoreless drought, Mercer junior Kevin Canevari canned his second three-pointer in less than a minute to lift Mercer to a 20-6 lead. At halftime, the Bears had assumed a 27-13 lead on the strength of seven-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
At the start of the second half, the Bucs re-energized the home crowd with scores on four of their first five possessions and began an extended 22-14 charge elapsing 7:40 of game time. At the conclusion of that charge, the hosts had climbed back to within three (41-38) with 10:40 to play.
Mercer's response came in the form of 10-unasnwered points bookended by three pointers from Hall and Travis Smith to push the lead back to 13. The Bucs would get no closer than eight the rest of the way as the Bears salted away the final minutes of their third-straight road win.
Travis Smith was a perfect four-of-four from the free throw line while also collecting five rebounds and an assist in the win. Hall also registered five assists, three rebounds and a steal while Gollon added seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Ten Mercer players reached the scoring column in the victory. Junior Anthony White Jr. netted seven while his classmate Bud Thomas chipped in five. Junior Daniel Coursey and sophomore T.J. Hallice each scored four on the inside while junior Darious Moten and Chris Smith both scored a point.
Mercer returns to action hosting Lipscomb on February 21. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.