MACON, Ga. – Mercer University's men's basketball team will be looking to return to the "W" column when it plays host to USC Upstate on Wednesday (Jan. 5) at the University Center as the second game of a women's-men's Atlantic Sun Conference doubleheader. Tip-off for the men's game is slated for 7:30 p.m. (preceded by a 5 p.m. start for the MU women).
Despite playing what has, arguably, been some of its best basketball of the season the past two weeks, the Bears (3-11, 0-3 A-Sun) have had to endure a four-game losing streak during that span. Since defeating Navy on December 10, Mercer has lost to Georgia (56-53), Charlotte (64-63), Georgia Tech (87-78) and East Tennessee State (62-61). In all of the games – with the exception of Georgia Tech - MU had the opportunity for a win in the waning seconds of each game.
Mercer's top scorer – senior guard Jeff Smith – was held scoreless in Monday's loss to ETSU. Smith, who is averaging 13.8 points per game, got into early foul trouble and played just four minutes of the first half. It was only the second time in Smith's two-year career at MU in which he was blanked in the points column (the other coming on Dec. 10, 209 vs. Piedmont).
Fellow Senior Brian Mills, who also got into a bit of foul trouble against the Buccaneers, led his team with 18 points and eight rebounds in the last outing. On the year, Mills has improved his scoring average to 13.3 p.p.g. and checks in at 6.0 rebounds per game, as well.
Senior forward Brandon Moore is the only the Bear in double-figure scoring average at 11.7 p.p.g. Moore is second on the team in rebounding at 5.9 r.p.g. and has a team-leading 20 blocked shots.
Freshman point guard Langston Hall has put out 8.7 p.p.g. and averages 3.4 assists per contest, as well. Hall is coming off of an outstanding effort versus ETSU where he tallied 13 points and hit 4-of-5 from three-point range. His buzzer-beating heave for a game –winning shot from just inside the half court line against ETSU bounced on the rim three times before falling away.
SCOUTING USC UPSTATE:
USC Upstate comes into Macon with a record of 2-11 overall and is 1-2 in the A-Sun. Its lone win in league was a 60-59 victory over East Tennessee State back on December 5.
It's only other win of the year came just prior to that (on Nov. 29), a 93-91 double-overtime win over UNC Asheville. USCU had opened the year with six-straight losses.
The Spartans have lost five in a row since that win over ETSU, including Monday's A-Sun setback at Kennesaw State, 78-71. In that contest, USCU's Torrey Craig led all scorers with 25 points. Craig hit 11-of-21 fom the field and also pulled down seven rebounds. Babatund Olumuyiwa had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds off of the Spartans' bench.
On the year, Upstate has been led by Craig's 12.7 points per game average, while also topping the team at 6.7 rebounds per game. On an offense that averages just 58.4 points per game as a team, seven players tally at a clip of 5.5 p.p.g or better. Besides Craig, Olumuyiwa is at 7.2 points (and 4.8 boards) per game, while Tony Dukes and Josh Chavis average 6.8 and 6.3 p.p.g., respectively. Carter Cook and Mezie Uzochukwu are at 5.9 and 5.5 p.p.g. to round out USCU's top scorers.
Olumuyiwa leads the A-Sun in blocked shots at 2.92 "rejections" per game.
*Mercer holds a slim lead in the brief history in its series versus USC Upstate by a 3-2 margin.
*The Bears won both meetings in 2009-10. MU won in Spartanburg, S.C., 60-57, on January 14, 2010 and in Macon, 83-69, on February 8, 2010.
*In that last meeting between these teams in Macon, Mercer's now-senior trio of Jeff Smith (22 pts.), Brandon Moore (16 pts.) and Brian Mills (10 pts.) combined for 48 of the Bears' 83 points as a team. In all, MU had five players tally in double figures (James Florence had 15 points and Daniel Emerson added 12).
*Brian Mills has scored in double figures in seven-consecutive games heading into the contest with USCU.