Bears Improve to 6-3 with OT Win at Samford, 83-78
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It had been more than eight full seasons since Mercer and Samford last tangled in men’s basketball and the 104th edition of the rivalry was worth the wait as MU grabbed an 83-78 overtime win at the Pete Hanna Center. The contest featured 16 lead changes and six ties, with neither team leading by more than seven points in the game.
The non-conference win helped the Bears, 6-3 overall, to their best start since the 2004-05 squad began the season with a 7-3 record. Samford, which was a founding member of the Atlantic Sun Conference along with Mercer and a part of the league for 24 seasons, fell to 1-6 on the year.
The Southern Conference member Bulldogs made it clear from the outset that they would not roll over for Mercer. SU led by as much as six points in the first half before eventually carrying the two-point, 37-35, advantage into the locker room.
Samford hit better than 47 percent of its three-point attempts (7-15) in the opening period versus a Bears’ squad that lead was allowing its opponents just 28 percent from long distance coming in. SU eventually finished the night at 41 percent (14-34) from beyond the arc.
Mercer appeared to have taken control with 2:57 left in regulation when a Monty Brown (8 points) layup put the Bears ahead by four, 71-67. However, the stubborn Bulldogs utilized their deft shooting from beyond the arc to get back in the contest and eventually knot matters at 73-73 to end regulation.
In the overtime segment, Mercer shot out to its biggest lead of the game, 80-73, scoring the first seven points on a jumper by Bud Thomas, a layup by Jakob Gollon and a three-ball from Langston Hall that forced Samford into a timeout with 2:39 left in the extra period.
But even that lead was not safe from the hot-shooting SU team. A short jumper and a trey by SU’s Drew Winder (16 points) cut the Bears’ advantage to 80-78 with less than 50 seconds left.
However, Hall connected on three of his four free throw tries in the waning seconds for MU to seal the win, 83-78.
Hall led all scorers with 18 points, hitting six-of-12 from the floor and five-of-six from the charity stripe.
In all, four Bears tallied in double digits. Joining Hall in double figures were Justin Cecil, with 13 points, and Gollon with 12 points. Travis Smith, making his Mercer debut, responded with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals.
“We were very fortunate tonight,” MU head coach Bob Hoffman said. “Samford really had the shooting touch going for it. But we battled hard and didn’t give up, even when things were not going our way. We found a way to win.
“I’m always thankful to get a road victory.”