Dolphins upset by Mercer, 66-63
The JU men’s basketball team was upset by No. 6 seed Mercer on the Bears home floor, 66-63, in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament semifinals.

The Dolphins (19-12) had two shots to tie the game in the final moments – Ben Smith’s 3-point try was blocked and Tevin Galvin’s rimmed out as time expired.

The final horn was a heartbreaker for Smith and senior Lehmon Colbert. Smith scored 19 points, but hit just 5-of-16 from the floor. Colbert had 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds, but didn’t score in the second half.

“You can put this on me,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “It’s my job to get the team prepared.”

Sporting a two-point lead at halftime, JU saw the lead slip away in the opening minutes as Mercer took a seven-point lead, 39-32, on a free throw by Daniel Emerson with 15:08 left in the game – capping a 12-3 run.

JU the deficit to one, 43-42, on an Ayron Hardy layup with 11:41 left, but saw the Bears come right back with seven unanswered to take an eight-point lead, 50-42, with 9:30 left in the game.

With their backs against the wall, the Dolphins looked for one of their patented second half runs and got one – taking a two-point lead, 57-55, with 5:04 to go on a beautiful layup by Will Alston that was setup by a pass from Smith.

Mercer answered with another Jeff Smith 3-pointer, his third of the game, to take the lead for the final time.

JU tied the game at 58, but saw the Bears push the lead to four on a 3-pointer by James Florence with 1:26 left.

The Dolphins cut the lead back to one, 64-63, when Hardy made a pair of free throws with 17 seconds. After a pair of free throws by Florence with 15 seconds left, setup the Dolphins last chance to tie coming up dry.

Emerson scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Bears (16-16) to the upset, with Jeff Smith adding 18 points.

In a first wild first half that went back and forth with eight ties and eight lead changes, the Dolphins took a 29-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Ayron Hardy had 13 points, 11 coming in the final 15 minutes of the second half.

The Dolphins season isn’t complete yet. JU will see its second straight trip to the postseason when the automatic bid to the NIT in two weeks.