Georgia hangs on to defeat Mercer 56-53

Travis Leslie scored 20 points and nailed two free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining to seal Georgia's 56-53 victory over Mercer on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs (9-3) led 54-53 with 21.2 seconds left to play, but a turnover by Sherrard Brantley on an inbounds play gave the ball back to Mercer with 18.6 seconds to go.

Brian Mills was unable to handle a pass directly under the basket and lost the ball out of bounds, turning it back over to Georgia.

Mills led the Bears (3-8) with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but his turnover with 3.9 seconds left forced Mercer to foul Leslie.

Leslie knocked down both free-throw attempts to extend the lead for Georgia, which has won six consecutive games.

Trey Thompkins added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who defeated Mercer for the 15th straight time.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-8 after a layup from Thompkins with 12:40 remaining in the opening half.

Leslie scored 12 of Georgia's first 17 points, going 5 for 5 from the floor and hitting two free throws.

The Bears answered with an 11-0 run to tie the score at 19 with 10:18 left in the first, and finished the half on a 12-5 run to enter halftime with a 31-24 advantage.

A dunk from Jeremy Price at the 17:34 mark of the second half pulled the Bulldogs within one point at 33-32.

Mercer assumed control with a 15-5 run, pushing its lead to 48-37 — the largest lead of the game — as the Bears looked to defeat Georgia for the first time in more than 50 years.

The Bulldogs answered with a 12-0 run of their own, led by eight points from Thompkins, to take a 49-48 lead with 4:53 left on the clock.

The score was tied three more times before a free throw from Price, who scored 11 points, gave Georgia a 54-53 lead with 52 seconds remaining.

Georgia finished 19 of 45 from the floor (42.2 percent) and 16 of 26 from the free-throw line (61.5 percent).

The Bears were 19 of 52 from the field (36.5 percent), including 4 for 21 from behind the arc (19 percent). But 11-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line enabled Mercer to stay in the game until the end.

The meeting Thursday night was the 75th between the two schools, with Georgia now holding a 52-23 edge.

It was the first time that the Bulldogs had played against the Bears in Macon since an 81-71 win on Dec. 3, 1994.