There is a long history of Bear success in Tuscaloosa. Not many would have expected, though, that the Mercer Bears would come into Coleman Coliseum and defeat Alabama. That, however, is what happened Saturday as Mercer took a 66-59 win over a fast-fading Crimson Tide men’s basketball team.
Alabama lost its fourth game in last five outings in December and fell to 7-4. Mercer improved to 7-6. In its previous game, the Bears had lost by 58-49 to Georgia.
Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant said, “Give Mercer credit. I thought they out-played us in the second half. It’s frustrating for me to watch it and go through these experiences over and over again.
“All the things you want to see your team do, you saw them do it.
“Mercer understood it’s a 40-minute game. They were tougher. They did the things it takes to win.”
Mercer was outstanding on three-point shots down the stretch. After holding the Bears to only 2-9 on treys in the first half, Bama was victimized by 6-13 three-point shooting in the second half as Mercer finished 8-22 from behind the arc. Alabama, meanwhile, made 4-14 treys.
Alabama also had a bad game at the free throw line, making only 65 per cent (13-20). From the field, the Tide was 21-53 for 39.6 per cent. Mercer made 22-54 from the field (40.7 per cent) and 14-18 free throws.
Mercer had a 35-33 rebounding advantage and a 16-6 margin in second half points.
The game was tied five times and the lead changed hands eight times. Bama’s largest lead was 12 points, while Mercer’s biggest advantage was the seven-point final margin.
Trevor Releford led the Tide with 19 points, while Rodney Cooper had 17 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Daniel Coursey led Mercer with 20 points and Travis Smith had 17, including 5-7 on three-point shots.
Mercer Coach Bob Hoffman has now had five wins against BCS level teams, and two of those wins are over Alabama. Hoffman said, “We finally were able to make some threes and it was fun to watch them go down. This was a fantastic win for our program.”
Alabama is now off until Sunday, Dec. 30, when the Crimson Tide hosts Tulane in a 5 p.m. CST game.
It looked as though Bama was on its way to a comfortable win when Releford had nice back-to-back shots, one of them a three-pointer. The Tide built a nine-point lead midway through the second half. Moments later, though, Mercer had a three-point lead at 52-49 as Travis Smith hit a pair of three-pointers in a 13-1 run by the Bears.
The game rocked back and forth, but momentum was clearly with Mercer. Levin Randolph had a nice driving shot that gave the Tide a 59-58 lead with 1:33 to play, but the only team scoring points after that was Mercer.
Jakob Gollon put the Bears back up with a pair of free throws at 1:17. After an Alabama turnover, Gollon nailed a three-pointer and Mercer led 63-59 with 36.8 seconds to go.
Alabama was unable to do anything (unless one includes foul) and free throws wrapped it up for the visitors.
Alabama had some back door issues to open the game with Mercer getting a handful of easy baskets by 6-10 Daniel Coursey, but otherwise Bama’s defense kept the Bears off rhythm as the Tide built a double digit lead with over six minutes to play in the first half.
A 14-2 run gave the Tide a 22-11 lead and Bama built it up to as much as a dozen, but the Bears took advantage of poor Alabama shooting to close to within five points at halftime at 27-22 on a 7-0 run. The final Mercer points of the first half came on a familiar back door play to Coursey, who slammed it home at the buzzer.
TIDE NOTES: Trevor Lacey came into the game having made 23-47 three-point shots and his 48.9 per cent mark was best in the Southeastern Conference. Against Mercer, Lacey was 0-3 on three-point shots and only 1-6 from the field, finishing with five points.
For the second consecutive game, Alabama started four guards – Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper – and a forward, freshman Devonta Pollard.
For the year, in part because of injuries, the Tide has used six different starting lineups this year. Lacey and Randolph are the only players to have started all 11 games.
Alabama is now 6-3 all-time against Mercer.