Buzzer beater lifts Mercer over JU, 72-71
James Florence’s prayer off the glass with 1.5 seconds left was answered and lifted Mercer to a shocking 72-71 upset of Jacksonville on Saturday at the University Center.

Florence’s heroic shot came after his first attempt at a game-winner was blocked by Ayron Hardy. After coming up with the loose ball, Florence tossed the ball off the top of the glass and it fell in to cap a 13-3 run in the final 2:39.

The shot overshadowed Hardy’s controversial jumper from the corner that was ruled a two, that gave the Dolphins a 71-70 lead with 18 seconds left in the game.

“This is a disappointing loss, especially with how well we played over the first 38 minutes,” said JU head coach Cliff Warren. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to down the stretch and they did.”

Ben Smith led JU (12-10, 10-3 A-Sun) with 24 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Three Dolphins finished in double figures, as Lehmon Colbert had 17 points and Travis Cohn added 12.

The Dolphins looked to have a firm grasp of the game, holding a 68-59 lead after a pair of Smith free throws with 2:39 left in the game.

From there, Mercer got a combination of fouls, turnovers and made shots to turn the game.

Daniel Emerson, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, go the rally started with a pair of free throws.

After Marcus Allen made 1-of-2 free throws, Emerson got a layup followed by an offensive foul on Smith on an inbound play. Florence followed with an off-balanced jumper in the lane to cut the deficit to four, 69-65, with 1:19 left in the game.

Another JU turnover was converted into a pair of Florence free throws to give the Bears a two-point deficit, 69-67, with 1:03 left in regulation.

Smith made an uncharacteristic turnover and the Bears answered when E.J. Kusnyer hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, taking a 70-69 lead with 50 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing JU possession, the Dolphins worked around the helter-skelter defense of Mercer and got Hardy open in the corner for what looked like a go-ahead 3-pointer. Instead, the officials ruled his foot was on the line and the Dolphins had just a one-point lead, 71-70, with 18 seconds to go.

The Dolphins had owned a 35-30 lead at the half, closing the opening stanza on an 18-6 run. JU’s success came because of the ability to get to the free throw line, shooting 15 free throws in the first half.

In the second half, JU was whistled for 15 fouls to Mercer’s eight – giving the Bears 15 free throws as opposed to JU’s eight. The Bears were in the bonus eight minutes into the second half, with JU finally getting into the bonus with 2:39 left in the game.

Over the final 2:39, Mercer was whistled for just one foul as the Dolphins hit just 1-of-2 free throws during that stretch.

The Dolphins will look to snap their two-game losing streak at Kennesaw State on Monday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.