Bears Close Out Regular Season With Lipscomb Saturday
MACON, Ga. – When Mercer University's men's basketball team faces Lipscomb University on Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale, it will also be getting a preview of its first-round game in the Atlantic Sun Conference championship tournament next week. Tip-off Saturday is slated for 4:30 p.m. and there will be a pre-game ceremony honoring the Bears' seniors, as well.
When the A-Sun basketball championship tournament – which is being hosted by Mercer on March 2-5 – gets under way next week, the Bears (13-17, 10-9 A-Sun) will be facing Lipscomb once again on Thursday (March 3) at 9 p.m. at the University Center. Lipscomb and Mercer are already locked in as the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds, respectively, regardless in the outcome of Saturday's contest.
"I think you just play," MU head coach Bob Hoffman said of the quirk of facing an opponent back-to-back. "You can't do 'one or the other.' You've just got to play and get it done. Against these guys, we've got to give them our best shot (on Saturday) and then regroup and give them another good shot next time (on Thursday)."
The last time the teams met back on December 4 in Nashville, the Bisons scored a 77-65 win. LU's duo of Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater booked 28 and 21 points, respectively. A 28-28 ball game at halftime turned the Bisons' direction in the second half.
The circumstances of that game should at least feel a bit familiar to Mercer, as then starting forward Brandon Moore was knocked out of the contest early by a concussion and the MU bench had to pick up the slack. Since that time, Moore – as well as guard Jeff Smith – were both lost to Mercer for the season due to knee injuries. The Bears' have had numerous players step up since then, much as they did in the last meeting with LU.
Senior Brian Mills, who has been Mercer's top scorer this season at 15.6 points per game and top rebounder at 5.9 boards per game, had a good outing last time versus Lipscomb. Mills registered a double-double of 15 points and a game-leading 12 rebounds, to go along with two assists and three steals.
Mercer freshman point guard Langston Hall had a nice game last time in Nashville, as well, adding 15 points to MU's coffers. On the year, Hall s averaging 8.3 p.p.g. and 3.0 r.p.g. and gives out an average of 3.3 assists per contest.
Adnan Hodzic, the A-Sun's pre-season "Player of the Year," leads the Bisons by averaging 18.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Hodzic also shoots an impressive 56 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the free throw stripe.
Teammate Josh Slater checks in at 16.3 p.p.g. and 6.1 r.p.g. slater has been to the free throw line 191 times this season, converting 136 (71 percent). He is also one of the A-Sun's top defensive players with 89 steals, as well as averaging 4.8 assists per game.
Jordan Burgason is the third member of LU's roster to average double-digit scoring at 10.8 p.p.g.
Lipscomb has won three of its last four games (its lone setback in that span being a 102-95 double overtime loss to East Tennessee State). LU averages 77.0 points per game, but also allows 74.0 p.p.g., which means the Bisons can get in some high-scoring bouts.
*The pre-game "Senior Day" ceremonies will be honoring four players: Jeff Smith, Brandon Moore, Mark Hall and Brian Mills. Smith and Moore were both transfers to MU last season from Wallace C.C. and both hail from Alabama…and both are also out for the year because of knee injuries after stellar starts to 2010-11. Hall and Mills are both four-year letterwinners.
*Mercer's 220 steals as a team is already the fifth-highest total on record for a Bears' squad in a single season.
*This year's back-to-back meetings with Lipscomb to close out the regular season and having to play them again the in the first-round of the A-Sun tournament will be the second time the Bears' have done that with an opponent in their 27 A-Sun tournament appearances. The other time the same scenario occurred was in the 1990-91 season when MU closed the regular season with Texas-San Antonio and then turned around to play the Roadrunners in the A-Sun post-season.