By Carey Phillips
Djordje Dimitrijevic scored 24 points, and Jeff Gary had 20 on Jan. 22, powering Mercer to an 85-79 Southern Conference men’s basketball victory over Western Carolina.
A crowd of 2,572 at Mercer’s University Center saw Ethan Stair add 17 points and pull down 13 rebounds for the Bears.
Mason Faulkner led the Catamounts with 23 points. Carlos Dotson returned to action after missing one game with an injury and recorded a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Travion McCray followed with 13 points, and Onno Steger had 11.
WCU’s biggest lead was 16-11 after an 8-2 run, including five by Faulkner, with 14:21 left in the first half.
Mercer turned things around with an 11-2 spurt, including four by Daniel Love, to take a 22-18 edge after Maciej Bender’s dunk with 9:39 on the clock.
The Cats led as late as the 5:51 mark as Falkner’s layup made it 27-25.
The Bears took the lead for good at 30-27 on Gary’s three-pointer at the 4:53 mark.
They led 39-33 at halftime after Stair’s three-pointer with seven seconds left.
A 9-2 spurt, including five by Dimitrijevic, extended the margin to 48-38 on Victor Bafutto’s layup with 17:07 to play.
Steger scored five in a 12-3 run narrowing the deficit to 51-50 on Dotson’s layup at the 13:46 mark.
Western was still just a point behind, 59-58, after Faulkner’s layup with 9:29 on the clock.
Mercer reeled off 10 straight points, including five by Gary, for a 69-58 advantage on Stair’s three-point play at the 7:23 mark.
The Cats lost despite shooting 63 percent from the floor in the second half to finish at 50 percent for the game. The Bears made 48.3 percent of their attempts.
Mercer had a 33-31 rebounding edge.
Both teams committed 15 turnovers.
Completing the WCU scoring were Matt Halvorsen with six and Marcus Thomas and Xavier Cork with two apiece.