Bears Go for Fifth-Straight Friday at North Florida
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Mercer University's men's basketball team takes the floor Friday night at the University of North Florida, it will be looking for both a fifth-consecutive win…as well as a bit of revenge. Tip-off at UNF Arena is slated for 7 p.m. for the Atlantic Sun Conference game.
The Bears (12-15, 9-7 A-Sun), winners of four straight and six of their last seven games, are hoping to do some climbing in the standings on the two-game swing to northern Florida. Mercer is currently one game behind fourth place Lipscomb in the A-Sun, while the Ospreys (10-17, 7-9 A-Sun) are in sixth place, two behind MU.
UNF already owns a 74-64 victory over Mercer early this season in Macon. Since that time, however, MU has gotten hot and the Ospreys have not. UNF has dropped five of seven games since that win over MU, including last Sunday's 80-57 setback at East Tennessee State.
The play of senior forward Brian Mills continues to drive the Mercer machine with his torrid play of late. It was Mills' layup with 3.3 seconds left that was the winning basket versus Kennesaw State, 57-55, in Macon on Tuesday. Mills over the past few weeks alone, Mills has raised his season scoring average by nearly four points per game to its current mark of 15.3 p.p.g.
Mills is also Mercer's leading rebounder at 5.9 boards per outing.
Like his senior counterpart, guard Mark Hall has also elevated his game in recent weeks. Hall is at 7.3 p.p.g. A 40-percent shooter overall, Hall is hitting nearly 54 percent in the last four games and is second on the team with 43 three-pointers (second only to freshman Langston Hall's, no relation, 47 treys made).
Langston Hall is second in scoring at 8.0 points per game for the Bears.
SCOUTING NORTH FLORIDA:
The Ospreys are led by Parker Smith's 12.2 p.p.g., doing all of his work in 27 appearances off the UNF bench. Smith is the A-Sun's top gun from long distance, averaging 2.70 three-point buckets per game.
Jerron Granberry and Andy Diaz also average double figures at 11.4 and 10.5 p.p.g., respectively. Diaz is the Ospreys' top rebounder at 5.7 r.p.g.
The Ospreys, like Mercer, have a loss to Florida State on their ledger. Five of UNF's other non-conference setbacks have come to teams which were nationally-ranked, including: Pitt (#5); Missouri (#15); Purdue (#19); Texas (#22)., and; Kansas State (#17).
*In its last seven games (in which the Bears are 6-1), MU has out-scored its foes by nearly eight points per game and made 3.6 more free throws per game. However, the biggest factor has been the team's ability to take care of the basketball. MU has averaged just 9.0 turnovers per game, while forcing the opponent into 13.4 miscues per game during that span.
*This will be the 12th meeting between the Bears and Ospreys. MU holds a 9-2 advantage in the previous meetings.
*Brian Mills became Mercer's 35th member of the "1,000 Point Club" with his second field goal of the game versus Kennesaw State on Tuesday.