Georgia allowed a dangerous Mercer team to hang around tonight before ultimately emerging from Stegeman Coliseum victorious in triple overtime, 86-77. The Bulldogs always seem to struggle with Bob Hoffman's Bears, and tonight was no different. The Baptists from Macon didn't lead after the opening moments, and the Hoop Hounds actually opened up a 12 point lead in the second half. Still the Bears never went away and red and black hearts went into red and black throats when, after Georgia went cold from the field, Mercer's Jordan Strawberry hit a three pointer as time expired in regulation, sending the game into the first of three overtimes.
It was the first ever triple overtime game played at Stegeman. If Mark Fox has his way it may be the last, at least against the Bears, who no sane coach schedules. In addition to taking down Duke in last year's NCAA tournament, since 2013 Mercer has also taken down Alabama, Florida State, and Ole Miss among others. They're a perennially well-coached team, though this group is down four senior starters from last year's tournament team.
That being said Mercer did hit 33% of their three pointers and fought the Bulldogs to a near draw on the boards. That allowed them to stay in it, though the visitors from Macon couldn't ever open up more than a brief6 point lead in overtime, and eventually succumbed to a late barrage which began with a Charles Mann 3 pointer. Mann ended up leading all scorers with 22 points, while Marcus Thornton and Nema Djurisic chipped in 17 apiece.
Those numbers are a bit misleading, as 35 of the Classic City Canines' points came in extra time. And the 51 they'd scored in regulation didn't come easily. Georgia shot a dismal 56% from the free throw line, which aided the Bears significantly. Mercer got to the charity stripe only 19 times on the night compared to 37 free throws for the home team. If Georgia had shot its season average of 68% from the line this one wouldn't have gone to overtime.
Alas, the Red and Black allowed a good basketball team to hang around and it almost bit them in the hindquarters. A loss to Mercer would not have been the worst of the Fox era, but it would have been a poor mark on the season. As it is the 'Dawgs run their record to 7-3 on the season and will face Kansas State on Wednesday evening in their penultimate contest before beginning conference play on January 7th against Arkansas. Until later...