Late threes lift Mercer past VMI, 83-80
Redshirt junior forward Felipe Haase scored 23 points and hit two 3-point shots in the final 1:38 of regulation to lead Mercer to an 83-80 Southern Conference win over VMI Saturday afternoon in Macon, Ga.
The Keydets fell despite 26 points from senior guard Greg Parham who notched his sixth straight 20-point game and eighth of the season.
The Bears twice built nine-point leads midway in the second half and led 63-54 after a Ross Cummings jumper with 9:55 left. VMI responded with an 11-3 run and pulled within 66-65 when senior forward Myles Lewis converted a 3-point play with a dunk and free throw at the 6:20 mark.
The teams battled for the remainder of regulation and the game saw four ties and six leads changes over the final three minutes. Parham had twice given VMI one-point margins following a pair of free throws at 2:23 (76-75) and a jumper at 1:58 (78-77). Haase rammed in a 3-pointer to get the Bears ahead 80-78 with 1:38 left, but Keydet freshman guard Trey Bonham answered with a layup to tie it at 80-80 at 1:21.
Haase knocked in another three-pointer twenty seconds later on Mercer’s ensuing trip down the floor to put the Bears up for good. The Keydets came up empty on their last offensive possessions as Parham missed a 3-point try that was rebounded by Mercer’s Kamar Robinson with just under a minute left.
Keydet guard Kamdyn Kurfman rebounded a Jeff Gary 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, but Parham came up short on a step-back 3-point hoist from the top of the key as the final seconds expired.
The Bears (10-4, 3-3 SoCon) got 22 points from redshirt senior Ross Cummings and 18 from junior transfer guard Leon Ayers III to post their third straight win.
Junior center Jake Stephens scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds and Lewis and Bonham each scored 11 points for the Keydets (8-8, 3-4 SoCon) who were seeking their first road win of the year.
“That was another tough battle in the SoCon,” VMI coach Dan Earl said. “Credit to Mercer, they made big plays when it counted. Specifically, it was Haase who made those two huge three-pointers in the last two minutes. I thought out guys battled, but we must improve our defense and come up with more loose balls. All the details matter. We competed, though, and will continue to work to improve.”
Mercer shot 59.3 percent in the first half including 7-of-12 from 3-point range to help take a 45-38 lead at the break. Cummings, Hasse, and Ayers combined for 35 points before intermission. The Mercer shooting cooled down in the second half to 43%, however, as the Keydets were able to get stops and mount their comeback.
VMI outrebounded Mercer by a 34-30 margin and held a 44-24 advantage in points in the paint, but were just 7-of-20 beyond the arc and had a season-low eight assists.
The Keydets return to action Wednesday night at Cameron Hall against Western Carolina.
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