MACON, Ga. –The Mercer Bears reeled off a 19-2 early second half run to break open a close game and hand VMI a 68-50 setback in Thursday night Southern Conference basketball action at Hawkins Arena.
Guard Demetre Rivers scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds and guard Rashad Lewis dished out eight assists as the Bears (7-9) snapped a two-game skid and captured their first SoCon win of the season.
The Keydets (3-10, 0-2 SoCon) were paced by guard QJ Peterson with 18 points while forward Trey Chapman missed his first double-double of the year with a 12-point, nine-rebound effort. All of Chapman’s scoring occurred in the first half.
VMI labored through a cold perimeter shooting night going a season low 4 of 26 beyond the arc and finished 33.3% over from the field.
Mercer was cold from outside as well hitting just 5 of 28 from 3-point range, but dominated the boards 44-27 and generated 20 assists in the contest.
VMI battled back from a 13-point first half deficit and trailed 37-27 at the break. A 3-pointer from Peterson cut the deficit to 37-30 at the outset of the second half, but that would be as close as VMI would get. Forward Armani Branch added a bucket to make it 39-32 at the 16:04 mark before Mercer scored 17 straight points with a Ria’n Holland trey and lane jumper triggering the run. VMI went scoreless for over six minutes missing eight straight shots before guard Garrett Gilkeson ended the dry spell with a 3-pointer from the left win at the 9:24 mark to make it 56-35. Mercer maintained its comfortable margin that never fell below 16 points the rest of the second half.
VMI committed just nine turnovers for the game, but three were committed during the decisive Mercer scoring spurt.
The Bears were without starting point guard Jordan Strawberry who was attending the funeral of his grandmother. The Mercer bench stepped up with a 30-9 advantage in reserve scoring .
The Keydets wrap up their four-game road swing Saturday at The Citadel. Tipoff in Charleston, S.C. is set for 1 pm.
VMI head coach Dan Earl –
“At the end of the day, you have to put the ball in the basket and unfortunately we didn’t do that tonight. We shot 15% from three, 58% from the free throw line, and it’s tough. We need our young guys to be aggressive and step up and shoot it. Part of being a college basketball player is toughness and toughness is rebounding the ball and playing defense, but it’s also if you miss a shot, you have to step and take the next one and shoot with confidence. We have to learn from it. The game was for the taking, and unfortunately, we shot poorer than they did.”