DELAND, Fla. – The final Atlantic Sun regular season meeting between the conference's two longest tenured schools started out as a slugfest, but an extended run helped the Mercer men's basketball team run away from the Hatters in a 73-52 victory at the Edmunds Center on Saturday.
Four Mercer players reached double figure scoring in the win, highlighted by Langston Hall's 16 points. With the triumph, Mercer jumped to 22-7 (13-3 A-Sun) on the year while Stetson dropped its fourth-straight game and fell to 7-21 (5-11 A-Sun).
The Orange and Black are guaranteed at least a share of the Atlantic Sun regular season championship with two wins in the final two regular season games.
A knock-down, drag-out first half saw the lead change 13 times before the Bears closed with a 9-0 run in the final 2:34 of the period to take a 35-27 halftime lead. The surge was keyed by Jibri Bryan, who grabbed a defensive rebound and raced the other way for an and-one layup at the 1:34 juncture.
Mercer continued the run out of the break, as Hall drilled a pair of 3-pointers to start a 17-2 charge that put the Bears ahead 52-29 with 12:29 to play. Mercer took the wind out of Stetson's sails at the defensive end, forcing the Hatters into 0-of-10 shooting and four turnovers during the stretch.
The total run amounted to a 26-2 charge by the Bears that spanned 11:12 of game time. The Hatters could never recover, cutting the margin to less than 20 just twice more before time expired.
Mercer's reserves were clutch during the first half, as the bench registered 20 points in the period led by Nwamu's 9 points. Darious Moten and Monty Brown joined Nwamu and Bryan with scores in the opening 20 minutes. By the finish, Mercer's reserves had chipped in 29 points.
Mercer shot better than 50 percent for the 13th time this season, finishing at 58 percent (29-of-50). Easy inside looks played a large part in Mercer's efficiency as the Bears collected 40 points in the paint on Saturday.
The Bears now return home for the final two games of the regular season, hosting North Florida on Feb. 27 and Jacksonville on March 1.