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Bruins Defeat Mercer

Bruins Defeat Mercer

Feb. 25, 2010

Box Score |  Quotes

NASHVILLE, TENN. - - In a game whose intensity and drama served as a precursor to 'March Madness,' Belmont men's basketball outlasted Mercer Thursday night, 77-73.

The Bruins came out quickly, as three-pointers from senior Keaton Belcher (Butler, Ky.) and freshman Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) and an interior basket from junior Jon House (Guelph, Ont., Canada) pushed Belmont to a 10-2 lead.

After the Bears closed within 10-7, sophomore Scott Saunders (New Orleans, La.) provided a huge lift off the bench with seven consecutive Bruin points, stretching the lead back to 17-9 seven minutes in.

As both teams fought for every loose ball and long rebound, a three-pointer from freshman Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) and another driving layin from House increased the Bruin margin to eight, 26-18, with 7:22 left in the half.

Yet behind the drives of Jeff Smith and the three-point shooting of Mark Hall, Mercer replied with a spirited 12-0 run to seize a 30-26 lead.

Two Brian Mills free throws bumped the Bear edge to 34-28, before junior Jordan Campbell (Indianapolis, Ind.) took over the final three minutes of the half.

Playing like a man possessed, Campbell scored eight points and grabbed two steals, the last of which set up a buzzer-beating runner from sophomore Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.). Behind Campbell's efforts, the Bruins closed the half on a 10-0 spurt to take a 38-34 lead to the locker room.

Belmont shot a sparkling 62 percent (16-for-26) from the field in the opening 20 minutes - including 5-for-11 from three-point distance.

But Mercer was not about to go away. The Bears scored the first five points of the second half to take a one point lead, initiating a remarkable stretch of back-and-forth action.

Six ties and four lead changes would characterize the next eight minutes, with Belmont using a Clark floater and a Belcher trey to claim a 53-50 advantage with 10:30 left.

Moments later, freshman Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) would score in traffic off of a nice post feed from Saunders. Perhaps of greater note, Mercer big man Daniel Emerson would pick up his fourth personal foul on the play. Baker completed the conventional three-point play to give the Bruins a 60-56 lead with 7:36 remaining.

Campbell would then bury a wing three-pointer and Hedgepeth tacked on two free throws to increase the Bruin cushion to 65-58 wit 5:13 left.

But layins from Emerson and Smith and a straight-on triple from Brandon Moore would tie the score at 65 with 3:29 to go.

Hedgepeth would answer with an easy layin off a nice setup from Clark. Following an exchange of defensive stops, Belcher ripped the nets from long distance from in front of the Bruin bench to extend the lead to 70-65 with 2:00 left.

Emerson cut into the lead with two free throws before Clark had a promising layin attempt blocked at the rim by Moore. But in transition, Smith would lose the handle and turn the ball back over to the Bruins.

Belmont proceeded to work the clock under one minute, and late in the shot clock, turn to Kerron Johnson. Johnson's driving shot rimmed off, but Hedgepeth corralled the biggest rebound of the game for the Bruins and passed the ball back outside for a new shot clock.

Mercer was forced to foul Clark with 37 seconds left, and he made one free throw to stretch the lead to 71-67.

Smith rapidly drove the lane and was fouled with 30 seconds left. He made the first free throw but missed the second. Hanlen grabbed the rebound for Belmont and was quickly fouled.

Hanlen made both free throws to give the Bruins a 73-68 lead with 27 ticks to go.

Belmont then played solid defense, forcing Mercer to use some clock before attempting a shot. However, Brian Mills made a lengthy three-pointer with 15 seconds left to get the Bears within 73-71.

Hanlen was fouled on the subsequent inbounds play and he again made both free throws to push the lead back to four.

Moore then scored on a tip slam with nine seconds left to inch Mercer within 75-73.

Following Mercer's final timeout, Belmont freed Belcher on an inbounds play. The senior was fouled and calmly made both free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to a two possession game, 77-73.

E.J. Kusnyer missed a three-pointer as time expired.

All told, Belmont shot 54 percent (28-52) from the field - including 8-for-16 from three-point distance. The Bruins forced 19 Mercer turnovers.

Hedgepeth led balanced Belmont scoring with 15 points. Campbell and Belcher each had 11.

Mills led Mercer (14-15, 10-9 Atlantic Sun) with 15 points.

Belmont (18-11, 13-6 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Saturday night against Kennesaw State. Tip-off is set for 7:15 pm CT from the Curb Event Center. The Homecoming Game will mark Senior Day for Bruin seniors Keaton Belcher and Mike Dejworek.

The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and flagship 104.5 The Zone. Live video streaming will be available via ASun.TV.