Controversial buzzer beater dooms JU
A controversial 3-pointer by Mercer’s Jeff Smith that was counted by the game officials handed the Bears a 75-74 win over the JU men’s basketball team at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

After the play, the referees huddled and counted the basket. Moments later, replays on the scoreboard after the game showed conclusively that the shot came after the buzzer.

Smith’s “game winner” was his fifth 3-pointer of the game as he led Mercer (5-8, 1-2 A-Sun) with 21 points, one of four Bears in double figures.

“It’s a shame the game came down to that call, but we have nobody but us to blame,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We had plenty of chances to keep the game from coming down to that shot, we just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.”

The controversy cast a cloud over a hard fought game that saw Ben Smith lead JU with a game-high 28 points to go along with six assists and six steals. It is the fourth straight game that Smith has scored 20 points or more.

JU’s Smith hit a pair of free throws with 4.7 seconds left to give the Dolphins a two-point lead, setting up Mercer’s Smith run up the floor.

The Dolphins (3-8, 0-3 A-Sun) defense forced them to inbound the ball to Smith, who raced up the floor and pump faked several times, before getting off the controversial shot.

It was bitter pill for the Dolphins to swallow as they saw a six-point lead evaporate in the final two minutes, as the Bears ended the game on 9-2 run.

In its final three possession, JU turned the ball over twice with Smith shooting a pair of free throws with the game tied at 72.

“You have to give credit to Mercer for not giving up,” Warren said. “We just didn’t take care of the ball late in the game.”

Before the final minutes, JU looked to have the game in hand.

JU saw the Bears race out of the locker room on a 11-2 run to take a 41-35 lead just two and half minutes in the second half.

From there, the Dolphins went on a 14-2 run – capping the run with a Ben Smith jumper to take a 55-49 lead with 8:10 left in regulation.

JU pushed the lead to nine on a pair of Tevin Galvin free throws, but Mercer answered with a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to one, 62-61, on James Florence’s second straight 3-pointer.

The Bears eventually tied the game at 66, but JU came right back with Smith hitting a 3-pointer and following it up with a 3-point play to give the Dolphins a 72-66 lead.

Florence finished the game with 20 points for Mercer, while Danny Emerson had 17 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out. Brian Mills added 11 points.

JU finished the first half on a 8-0 run, capped by a pair of Smith free throws with three seconds left to give the Dolphins a 33-30 edge at halftime.

Lehmon Colbert scored 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds off the bench for JU, with Travis Cohn adding 10 points.

The Dolphins return to action on Monday as they host Kennesaw State in another key A-Sun game at the Arena. Tipoff is set for 7:15 p.m.