The Mercer men’s basketball team defeated the Utah State Aggies on the road to claim the CollegeInsider.com Tournament Championship, winning 70-67. The win is the first post-season championship for both Mercer University and the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Despite the Aggies’ obvious home court advantage (having won 100 of their last 106) and the six-point deficit with only 4:35 left to play in regulation, Mercer was still able to escape with the victory.
With only 3:45 left on the clock, the Bears would go on a 19-12 run to steal the win from the Aggies. Late-game heroics by sophomore Bud Thomas and junior Travis Smith, who each added three-point jump shots in the last few minutes of the game, were coupled with a 9 of 10 finish from the free throw line during the last 2:50 of the game.
Sophomore Langston Hall finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Hall was awarded the tournament Most Valuable Player trophy for his performance throughout Mercer’s campaign.
Travis Smith added a career-high 17 points off of the bench, going 6 for 12 from the field and 3 of 4 from long range. He was also 2 for 3 from the free throw line.
Sophomore Thomas achieved the double digits mark for the second straight game again, adding 10 points, two rebounds and two assists to Mercer’s stat line. “It was an exciting game played in a great basketball atmosphere,” said Thomas. “We played hard and made plays down the stretch when we needed to. Hopefully, it will give us some momentum going into next season and we can pick up right where we left off.”
Mercer and Utah State were virtually identical on the stats sheet, so Mercer had to make the plays late to come away with the win. Utah State shot 41.5 percent from the field while Mercer shot 40.4 percent. Utah State shot 30.4 percent from three-point range; the orange and black shot 28.6 percent. The Aggies pulled down 36 rebounds, while the Bears garnered 33. Utah State dished out 15 assists while Mercer tallied 13. The only lopsided stat was points off of the bench with Mercer dominating 20-6, due to Travis Smith’s 17 points.
“We were close as a team and we have stayed in a tight circle all year,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman told mercerbears.com. “Being on the road together in our last three wins has united us even further, and solidified what these young guys believed they could do anywhere, in any place and against any odds. That is what we were able to accomplish, and it has been an unbelievable experience for our fans and our community. It is just a blessing to be a part of something this special, and we thank everyone who was a part of it.”
Mercer finished its record-breaking season with a 27-11 overall record, going 15-3 at home and 12-8 on the road. Mercer set program-records in total wins (27), points scored (2,589) and blocks (180) led by sophomore Daniel Coursey, who set the regular season record for blocks.
With all of this success to build one, combined with a young team (Justin Cecil is the only senior), Mercer has a bright future ahead when it comes to basketball.
Mercer captures historic CIT win