MACON, Ga. – Junior guard Ross Cummings hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead Mercer past VMI, 88-68, in Southern Conference action Thursday night at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Georgia.
The Bears, winners of two straight, used a strong first half to build a lead that the Keydets found difficult to overcome after halftime.
VMI (7-13, 1-7) was led by junior guard Garrett Gilkeson who scored 15 points and added nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Bubba Parham added 17 points, but labored through a 2-for-11 shooting night from beyond the arc.
Mercer (8-12, 3-5) shot 56.1% from the floor and was 10-of-19 from 3-point range while dishing out 19 assists led by sophomore guard Marcus Cohen who had seven dishes.
The Keydets, hampered by turnovers in the first half, dug themselves a hole that proved insurmountable as Mercer built a 52-31 intermission lead. The Keydets committed nine turnovers in the opening stanza which led to 19 Bears points.
Mercer started hot – building an 11-3 lead before VMI fought back scoring 10 straight points to take its only lead of the game, 13-11, when Gilkeson drained a trey at the 15:29 mark. The Bears responded with a 12-0 spurt to retake the lead for good and stretched the scoring run to 23-4 over nearly an eight-minute stretch to break the game open. Cohen capped the outburst with a dunk with 7:05 left in the half to put Mercer ahead, 34-17 and the Bears amassed as much as a 24-point bulge in the waning minutes before halftime.
VMI fought back after halftime trimming the deficit to 14 points (54-40) on a Jake Stephens 3-pointer at the 17:47 mark, but could come no closer despite nine second half points by forward Sarju Patel who started the second half.
The Keydets outrebounded the Bears, 34-32, but were outscored in the paint by a 40-26 count.
Mercer also received double-digit scoring efforts from redshirt junior guard Ethan Stair (18 points, 7 rebounds) and guard Jaylen Stowe with 17 points.
VMI returns to action Saturday at The Citadel with a tipoff scheduled for 1 pm at McAlister Field House.
VMI Head Coach Dan Earl –
“We dug ourselves a big hole and unfortunately we can’t afford to do that. We turned the ball over on offense, we had nine in the first half, and some of it seemed like lackadaisical passing - just throwing the ball back and forth. In the second half, I thought we did a better job getting the ball in the high post and then looking low, looking opposite, and getting some decent looks. We just weren’t fast enough in all aspects of the game and we have to compete every time out.”
“Cummings had a very good first half was at the top of our scouting report. He is a very good player and tough to totally contain, but we can’t give him 19 points at the half. We just fell asleep on some things. We weren’t moving fast enough on defense. We have to be more in tune and communicating better.”