JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For more than 16 minutes on Monday night at Swisher Gym, Mercer and the Jacksonville University men’s basketball team engaged in a physical, fast-paced contest that barely gave fans of either school a chance to catch their breath. At the final media stoppage of the first half, Mercer held a 31-29 lead with the Dolphins in possession of the basketball. There was no one play that turned the momentum, no breakaway dunk or back-breaking three. There was just the utter refusal of one team to miss a shot. The Bears ended the first half on a 10-0 run to go into the break ahead, 41-29, then connected on their first 14 shots of the second half to surge ahead by as many as 39 on their way to an 86-49 win in the Atlantic Sun opener for both teams. Mercer goes to 10-4 (1-0 A-Sun) while Jacksonville drops to 4-8 (0-1 A-Sun).
The energy in the gym was much as you would expect from a conference opener, and both teams came out ready to play in the opening minutes. Mercer took a quick 4-0 lead until Jarvis Haywood got in the lane twice and kickstarted an 8-2 Jacksonville run to put the Dolphins on top for the first time. The lead swung back and forth for a few minutes and a jumper from Javon Dawson had JU within one at 17-16, but the Bears reeled off a 7-0 run to take a 24-16 lead with just under 10 minutes until halftime.
After Dawson and Mercer’s Langston Hall traded three points – Dawson from a 3-pointer and Hall from the stripe – Jacksonville came back courtesy of a 10-4 run that was finished off by a tough Dawson layup in traffic off a feed from Sam Hunt that made it 31-29. On the next trip down the floor, Hunt drew a foul on Mercer’s Kevin Canevari to give JU the ball coming out of the break. That’s when things fell apart for the Dolphins. A turnover led to free throws on the other end for the Bears and started their 10-0 run over the final 3:30 of the half. The fireworks were just getting started.
The Dolphins started with possession in the second half and Haywood took advantage, ducking into the lane and dropping in a finish with his off hand to make it 41-31. That was answered by buckets from Ike Nwamu and Anthony White, Jr., but RJ Slawson brought the JU crowd to life with a monstrous put-back jam to stem the tide at 47-33. That would prove to be as close the Dolphins would get the rest of the way. For over seven minutes, Jacksonville would only score from the foul line, while the Bears made everything in sight. By the time Keith McDougald drove into the paint and scored nearing the 10-minute mark, Mercer’s lead was 74-40. While Jacksonville forced the Bears into a number of second half turnovers, the deficit was too much to be overcome and the visitors walked away with the win.
Hall scored a game-high 25 points for Mercer on the night. White, Jr. added 15 points while Daniel Coursey had game-high rebounding honors with seven and scored 12 points on 6-of-6 from the field.
Dawson paced Jacksonville on the evening with 13 points. Haywood added 10 and four rebounds.
There’s little time to dwell on the loss, as the Dolphins return to action at Swisher Gym on Wednesday night, hosting Kennesaw State (3-11, 0-1 A-Sun) at 7 p.m.
- The last time Jacksonville was held under 50 points came last season in the team’s home game with Mercer. That day, the Dolphins came away with a 49-47 victory at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
- Mercer set a record in the Cliff Warren era by shooting .689 from the floor for the contest. Lipscomb previously held the record by shooting 29-of-43 (.674) on Feb. 9, 2008 in an 83-70 win.
- The Dolphins turned the ball over 10 times on the night, a season-low in the category. Forcing 17 miscues from the Bears, JU had its best turnover margin of the season at +7.
- Javon Dawson made Jacksonville’s only 3-pointer in the contest at the 8:41 mark of the first half. The Dolphins ended the day 1-of-17 (.059) from deep, the worst 3-point shooting percentage in Warren’s time as coach.
- Tyler Alderman played a career-high 25 minutes.
- Marcel White matched a season/career high with four rebounds.