BLOG — Langston Hall hit a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to lift Mercer to a 79-76 victory over Ole Miss Sunday afternoon at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.
Junior guard Jarvis Summers led the Rebels with 21 points while senior Marshall Henderson eventually found his stroke to finish with 18 points. Forward Aaron Jones, who came off the bench for the first time this season in favor of Anthony Perez, had 10 points and three blocks while center Demarco Cox chipped in nine.
Mercer got a game-high 24 points from Ike Nwamu and 17 points from Hall. Jakob Gollon and Monty Brown scored 10 apiece.
Hall’s basket capped a final few minutes full of lead changes and shifts in momentum. Ole Miss (8-3) erased a 16-point deficit in the second half with a 30-8 run, capped by a layup from Derrick Millinghaus, to take a 66-60 lead with 6:45 left. Fueled by Nwamu, who scored 10 of the Bears’ next 12 points, Mercer (8-4) answered with a 14-5 run of its own to regain the lead, 74-71, with 1:39 remaining.
Summers drove in for a layup to bring the Rebels within one, and Ole Miss had a chance to take the lead on its next possession when Henderson got bumped on his way to the basket to draw a pair of free throws. But Henderson, a 78.6 percent free throw shooter this season, missed both before redeeming himself with a game-tying 3 with 13 seconds left on the Rebels’ next trip down the floor.
Mercer got the ball into the frontcourt and eventually worked it around to Hall, who rose up over a defender and drained his final long-range attempt with 0.6 seconds showing on the clock.
“Players make plays, and at the end of the day when you’re in a competitive game such as tonight, the team that makes the most plays is typically going to win,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. Mercer made the most plays. They deserved to win.”
The Rebels spent most of the game just trying to get itself within striking distance after a rough start. Jones, Cox and Summers, who combined for 20 points before the break, accounted for most of the Rebels’ offense in the first half as Ole Miss went just 4-for-15 from beyond the arc before halftime. Summers had two of those as Henderson, who had three points at the half, and Millinghaus combined to go 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
Mercer took a 41-29 lead into the half and stretched it to 47-31 with back-to-back 3s from Hall after the Bears knocked down just one 3-pointer in the first half. The advantage grew to 52-36 on a trey ball from Bud Thomas with 17:46 left before the Rebels started stringing together enough stops to make their comeback.
“When they were making that run and we were missing those layups (down the stretch), next thing you know, you breathe life back in them and put yourself in a position where one play beats you,” Kennedy said. “That’s what happened.”
Freshman forward Sebastian Saiz pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds while Cox and Jones each grabbed six to turn in their best performances in recent weeks. But the Rebels were still outrebounded for the third straight game, 39-35. Mercer finished with 11 second-chance points on 15 offensive boards.
Coming up short again on the glass drew the ire of Kennedy, who said he will continue to evaluate the roster in order to come up with a starting lineup that wants to rebound.
“It’s ridiculous, honestly,” he said. “We’ve done everything short of breaking out the football pads.”
See Monday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage of Sunday’s game. (December 22, 2013)