At one point, the scoreboard was just downright ugly in the last conference game for the Mercer Bears in 2009. Mercer found themselves trailing by 18 points in the first half to one of their biggest rivals in front of a large Saturday afternoon home crowd in the University Center.
For whatever reason, the Bears couldn’t seem to buy a shot in the first few minutes of the game. “We did not play well early on,” said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman on MercerBears.com, adding, “Belmont did a very good job of coming out and attacking us in the first half.”
After dropping a tough contest to Lipscomb in the Thursday night match-up, Mercer (3-5, 0-2 A-Sun) aimed to take out their frustrations on Belmont (6-2, 2-0 A-Sun), but was instead met with a hot-shooting Belmont team that shot 50% in the first half and 47% from the floor for the game in route to a 94-90 win. Trailing 46-31 at the half, most of the 2,314 fans seemed to be more preoccupied with getting an SEC Football Championship score rather than the product on the floor.
James Florence and company showed up to play in the second half though, going on a 23-13 run to get back into the ballgame. With only 2:34 left, Mercer stole the lead away from the Bruins on a Jeff Smith layup before Belmont went back up on a few key shots. Trailing by three with only seconds remaining, three point master E.J. Kusnyer drained a long shot from the right side of the perimeter to tie the game and force overtime.
Mercer took an initial lead in the five-minute overtime period, but Belmont was ultimately the stronger team, winning by four with a final score of 94-90. James Florence was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points to solidify his standing as the top scorer in the conference. Teammates Daniel Emerson (14 points, 14 rebounds), Brian Mills (14 points, 6 rebounds), Brandon Moore (13 points), and E.J. Kusnyer (12 points) also saw double-digit scoring totals on the afternoon, but it was the balance effort from Belmont’s distance shooter that proved to be too much.
Ian Clark led the Bruins with 22 points while Mick Hedgepeth (20 points), Keaton Blecher (14 points), and Kerron Johnson (13 points) also made big contributions.
Now, Mercer takes on Piedmont College at home before five consecutive away games, highlighted by match-ups with Vanderbilt, Alabama, UNC Charlotte, and Jacksonville.