Bears Topped at Belmont, 82-78
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a game which resembled two heavyweight fighters slugging it out blow-for-blow, Belmont University eventually landed the last shots to defeat Mercer, 82-78. The loss dropped the Bears to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The pre-season favorite Bruins improved to 5-2, 2-0 in A-Sun play.
Early on, things looked like they may get out of hand in favor of Belmont as the hosts raced out to 12-point lead, 19-7, midway through the first period. The Bruins upped that to a 15-point bulge on a three-ball from Ian Clark (17 points) with 3:29 left, 42-27.
The youthful Bears’ team refused to fold and climbed back to within 11 at the half, 44-33.
Belmont still led by 10 with 16:50 left, when Mercer began to make it assault. The Bears reeled off eight unanswered points on a layup by Monty Brown, a trey from Langston Hall and another three from Kevin Canevari to cut it to 51-49.
A few minutes later, a pair of free throws from Justin Cecil knotted matters at 54-54 with 10:24 left in the game and forced everyone to tighten their seat belts for the wild second half ride. There wou8ld be two m ore ties and Belmont never led by more than seven points the rest of the way as the MU team kept focused on the defending A-Sun champs.
Down the stretch, the Bears drew to within a possession of overtaking BU several times, but could not convert. Perhaps MU’s best chance came with five seconds left to play after Hall nailed three, free throws after being fouled behind the arc to make it 80-78.
Mercer was forced to foul and Belmont also converted its foul shots to hold off the Bears.
Hall had a team-leading 23 points, connecting on 6-of-14 from the floor overall and 4-of-8 from three-point range. Hall also made good on 7-of-8 free throws, while also dishing off four assists.
Daniel Coursey had another outstanding performance, dropping 18 points on the Bruins, while corralling eight rebounds and blocking four more shots (giving him 17 blocks in eight games). Coursey was an efficient 8-of-9 from the field.
Jakob Gollon was MU’s third double-digit scorer with 17 points. Gollon – the A-Sun’s free throw percentage leader – did nothing to hurt that status by making good on 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. He also had four assists and eight boards.
Mercer out-rebounded the Bruins, 38-35, and also out-shot Belmont from the field (44 percent to 39 percent). The difference in the game came at the foul line where BU was 30-of-40, while Mercer was 21-of-23.
“It was a tremendous effort,” said MU head coach Bob Hoffman. “The coaches worked hard; the players worked hard; we just came up short.
“Just a couple possessions here and there go a different way and no telling how it might have turned out.
“I really like this team. I love how they compete. They believe – at a high, high level – that they can win games.”