MACON, Ga. - The Mercer men's basketball team booked its 20th win of the season on Saturday in front of a record crowd at Hawkins Arena, earning at least a share of the Atlantic Sun regular season championship in the process. Mercer's 63-46 triumph over Northern Kentucky was also the team's eighth-straight win and completed a perfect 13-0 regular season at the home venue.
Mercer's victory sent the team to 20-9 (13-3 A-Sun) on the season, solidifying the program's first back-to-back 20 win seasons in history. The Norse dropped to 9-15 (7-9 A-Sun) with the loss.
A score-by-committee mentality produced a team-high 14 points for senior Travis Smith, 13 points for junior Jakob Gollon and 12 points for junior Langston Hall. As a team, the Bears shot better than 50% from the floor for the second-straight game while holding the opponent under 50 points for the ninth time this season.
Northern Kentucky came out firing on all cylinders and built a 12-4 lead in the opening four minutes of play. From there, the Bears fought their way back to tie matters at 16-16 with 8:42 left in the first half.
After pulling even, the Bears finished the half on a 15-4 run to take a 31-20 advantage into the locker room. In the second half, Northern Kentucky got whittled a 15-point deficit to eight (45-37) with under 10 minutes to play.
Mercer responded with a 7-0 in less than two minutes to regain a 52-37 advantage and put the game out of reach. The Bears' would go ahead by as many as 19 before ultimately settling on the 63-46 triumph.
Mercer's 13-3 conference record gives the team a two-game lead over second place Florida Gulf Coast with two games left. Mercer can clinch the regular season championship outright with one win in the final two contests.
Saturday's win was Mercer's fourth-straight by 10 or more and came in front of a capacity crowd of 3,527. The team is now unbeaten in its last 15 games at home, dating back to last season.
Smith added six rebounds, two steals and an assist on the night he was honored in a Senior Day ceremony. Joining him in the pregame festivities were senior Chris Smith, student manager Marquisse Jackson and Graduate Assistant Jonny Clark.
Chris Smith totaled five rebounds and a point in his final regular season game at Mercer. The contest also established the Dublin, Georgia native's 121st consecutive game played.
Gollon added five rebounds and an assist while Hall racked up seven assists, three rebounds and a block in the winning effort.
Mercer returns to Atlantic Sun play on February 28 at Florida Gulf Coast. Game time in Fort Myers, Florida is set for 7:30 p.m.