MACON, Ga. (School Release)- The Mercer men's basketball team begins its quest for the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985 on Wednesday, meeting Lipscomb in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Game time at Hawkins Arena is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Lipscomb earned the No. 8 seed by virtue of a 12-17 (7-11 A-Sun) regular season that saw the team win three of their final five games. The Bisons are 4-11 on the road in comparison with an 8-6 record at home.
Lipscomb boasts a potent offense, averaging 70 points per game on the year. On the defensive side, the Bisons are allowing a league-worst 76.5 points per outing.
Four of Lipscomb's starters average double-figure scoring, led by senior guard Deonte Alexander's 13.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Malcom Smith, freshman center Stephen Hurt and sophomore forward Martin Smith all are scoring 11.3 points per game or more, placing all four players among the league's top-22 scorers.
Lipscomb is also one of the conference's top rebounding teams, ranking second among A-Sun teams in rebounding margin (+3.1). Hurt leads the way with 7.9 rebounds per game, while junior guard Khion Sankey and Malcolm Smith average 6.9 and 4.9 rebounds, respectively. Hurt ranks third among A-Sun rebounders, while Sankey is fifth and Smith is 20th.
Hurt was named the A-Sun Freshman of the Year on Tuesday. He's piled up eight double-doubles on the year and was the first Freshman of the Year in program history.
Lipscomb leads the all-time series with Mercer 12-11, but the Bears have claimed victories in each of the last seven meetings. Those wins include A-Sun tournament first round games in each of the last two seasons. The last time Lipscomb bested Mercer was December 4, 2010 at Allen Arena.
Mercer's A-Sun regular season championship was the program's first outright regular season title. The Bears were also in the No. 1 seed in 2003 after tying Troy with 14-2 conference records.
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman was named A-Sun Coach of the Year on Tuesday. Langston Hall and Travis Smith were both All-Conference second team selections while Jakob Gollon collected Academic All-Conference team honors.
Hall was also named the CollegeInsider.com A-Sun MVP on Tuesday. Before the year, he was honored by the outlet as a Preseason Mid-Major All-American.
Mercer is 12-2 against the A-Sun tournament field. The Bears' only losses came at Jacksonville and at Florida Gulf Coast.
Wednesday's game marks the third straight year the Bears have faced Lipscomb in the first round of the A-Sun Tournament. The Bears are 3-1 in the first round of the league playoff under Coach Hoffman.