Mercer snaps losing streak to Georgia Tech

Photo by Daniel Kay 

Photo by Daniel Kay 

DULUTH -- Georgia Tech's biggest crowd in the Arena at Gwinnett Center saw the Yellow Jackets lose for the first time in their fifth and final game at their partial temporary home.

Mercer finally got its breakthrough victory over one of Georgia's major college teams, defeating the Yellow Jackets 65-59 before a crowd of 3,841 Thursday night.

Travis Smith went 6-for-6 at the foul line in the final minute and Mercer overcame a seven-point second-half deficit to snap a nine-game losing streak to instate foe Georgia Tech.

Monty Brown scored a career-best 13 points off the bench to lead four double-figure scorers for Mercer (8-5). Glen Rice Jr. had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (7-5).

"This is a big victory for us and something for us to build on," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "I'm just thrilled to see these guys enjoy the fruits of their labors."

Mercer's last victory over Tech had come on Jan. 28, 1974, when the Bears won 102-85 in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets had won 20 of the past 22 meetings in a series that goes back to 1909.

"This isn't just for us," the Bears' Bud Thomas said. "This is for Mercer and all the teams that came before us."

Mercer led Georgia by eight points in the first half at Athens on Tuesday before losing 72-58. It was the 15 straight loss to the Bulldogs for Mercer, which had almost pulled off the upset the previous season.

The Bears, a member of the Atlantic-Sun Conference, had also had some close games against Tech in recent years. This time Mercer broke through.

Tech went on an 11-3 run to go up 51-44 with seven minutes left to play. But Mercer closed the game on 21-8 run. After Rice's two free throws with 1:16 left got Tech back within two points, Mercer went 7-for-8 at the foul line to close out the win. The Yellow Jackets' only score in the final minute was a 3-pointer by Jason Morris.

"Give Mercer credit," Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. "I said before the game that they were a very good team. I knew this was going to be a tough game."

Thomas had 12 points for Mercer, while Jakob Gollon and Daniel Coursey each scored 10. Langston Hall and Gollon each had five assists and Thomas grabbed seven rebounds.

Morris had 10 points for Tech, which was just 4-for-16 on 3-pointers and committed 16 turnovers.

"They were tougher than we were," Gregory said. "We got what we deserved. They were the more physical team."

It was the first loss for the Yellow Jackets in five games in the Arena at Gwinnett Center, about 20 miles from campus. Tech, which is playing its other games at Philips Arena, is without a true home court this season as a new onsite arena is built.

Neither team led by more than four points in the first half, which ended with Mercer ahead 31-30. Brown and Tech's Kammeon Holsey each had eight first-half points.

Mercer hit four of its first six 3-point attempts and led 24-20 midway through the first half before Tech scored seven straight points to go up 27-24. The Bears finished the half on a 7-3 run, though, with Brown getting the final four points.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets.

Tech's other victories in Gwinnett came against Florida A&M, Delaware State, Siena and Alabama A&M. The Yellow Jackets lost to Northwestern in their first of two non-conference games at Philips Arena. They play Alabama there on Jan. 3 after a game at Fordham next Thursday.

The victory over Tech capped a tough non-conference stretch for Mercer, which lost in overtime to Seton Hall 80-77 on Sunday. The Bears play at Tulsa next Wednesday.