ST. THOMAS, USVI – The Mercer men's basketball team, playing its third game in four days, led ACC member Wake Forest for nearly 39 minutes of game time before succumbing to the Demon Deacons' comeback effort in a 74-71 loss at the Paradise Jam on Monday. Sophomore Jibri Bryan led the Bears with 14 points.
The result dropped Mercer to 2-3 on the season while Wake Forest pulled even at 2-2.
A spirited Mercer effort began right at the start, as the Bears put together a quick 4-0 lead in the opening minute of play. From there, Mercer would lead by as many as 11 and held at least a one point edge until Wake Forest earned its first tie of the game at 68-68 with 1:40 left in regulation. The tie score came as a result of a 10-3 Wake Forest run that elapsed 1:32 of game time.
Mercer held strong and got a clutch three pointer from Bryan on the next possession to go back in front with 1:00 to play. Aggressive Mercer defense resulted in a foul and Wake Forest guard C.J. Harris swished two free throws to bring his team within one (71-70) with 42 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Travis Smith drove to the bucket for a layup, but a wet-spot caused his foot to slip and he was whistled for a traveling violation. Moments later, Wake Forest freshman Tyler Cavanaugh found junior Travis McKie for a baseline dunk to give the Demon Deacons their first lead of the game (72-71) with 18 seconds to go.
Mercer junior Bud Thomas penetrated nicely the next time down, but his pass was bobbled out of bounds and Wake Forest retained possession. Two free throws on the other end put Wake Forest up three with four seconds remaining.
In the final moments, Mercer inbounded to Gollon, who created space and launched an errant three pointer as time expired. Both Mercer's bench and the Bears' contingency of fans wanted a foul on the final shot, but no infraction was called.
In the second half alone, Mercer was called for 17 fouls in comparison to six whistles against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons converted 17 of their 27 free throws while Mercer was 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the period.
Bryan's 14 points were fueled by a perfect four-of-four shooting from three-point range. Gollon and Thomas also broke into double-figure scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Gollon also produced six rebounds, five assists and four steals while Thomas collected three rebounds and notched a pair of assists.
Sophomore T.J. Hallice tied a career-high scoring effort with nine points while also chipping in six points, one assist and a block in the loss.
Nine Mercer players reached the scoring column in the loss as the Bears' bench outscored the opponent's reserves 32-22.
Mercer returns to action when the Bears host Furman at Hawkins Arena on November 25th. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.