NASHVILLE, Tenn. (School Release) - Mercer men's basketball head coach Bob Hoffman notched the 400th win of his men's collegiate coaching career on Saturday, leading the Bears to a 71-65 victory over Lipscomb at Allen Arena.
Mercer's win saw the Bears break away from a 23-23 halftime tie and improve to 13-9 (6-3 A-Sun). The Bears also slid into a four-way tie atop the A-Sun standings with the win, while Lipscomb fell to 8-12 (3-6 A-Sun).
"It was an amazing effort," Hoffman said. "Our guys showed amazing toughness and I'm really proud of them today. They stood up to the test and made play after play."
Hoffman's 88th win as head coach of the Bears combines with 69 wins at the helm of Texas Pan-American and 243 wins as head coach of Oklahoma Baptist University. Overall, Hoffman holds a 400-224 record as a collegiate men's basketball coach.
Three Mercer players reached double-figure scoring, led by senior Travis Smith. Smith scored 22, while junior Langston Hall tallied 19 and junior Jakob Gollon added 11. Junior Bud Thomas matched his career-high with 10 rebounds while also netting seven points.
In the early going, Mercer trailed 11-5 before mounting an 11-1 run, capped by a fast-break layup by senior Chris Smith. After Smith's score, the Bears would go ahead by as many as five before the Bisons closed the half on a 7-2 surge to earn the halftime tie.
Out of the break, Thomas found Gollon for a backdoor layup that gave the visitors back the lead. The quick score was a sign of things to come, as the Bears would blitz the Bisons for 48 second-half points. All told, Mercer was 11-of-16 (68.8%) from the floor and 22-of-25 from the free throw line (88%) during the period.
The red-hot offense helped the Bears go ahead by as many as 15 in the period, but Lipscomb hung around and whittled the deficit to seven as the clock went under the one minute mark.
With 41 seconds remaining, Lipscomb senior guard Deonte Alexander hit a fade-away three pointer in the corner while being fouled. His ensuing free throw cut the margin to three (68-65).
Following Alexander's heave, Hoffman elected to put the ball in the hands of the A-Sun's two best free throw shooters. Hall and Smith, who entered the game ranking first and second among A-Sun players in free-throw shooting percentage, iced the game with three charity tosses down the stretch.
"We didn't shoot free throws quite as well as we've been doing, but it was good enough to get the win," Hoffman said. "Langston and Travis on the line will win you a lot of games."
In the first half, Hall had the two assists he needed to move into third place in program history for career assists. He finished the game with four helpers, moving his career total to 347. He's now 69 assists short of breaking into the Atlantic Sun's top 25 career assist leaders.
Mercer returns home to face Kennesaw State on February 1 at Hawkins Arena. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.