Mercer (2-1) vs. Illinois-Chicago (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Site: UVI Sports & Fitness Center (3,500) -- St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Television: None. Home Record: Mercer 2-0, UIC 1-0. Away Record: Mercer 0-0, UIC 0-0. Neutral Record: Mercer 0-1, UIC 0-1. Conference Record: Mercer 0-0, UIC 0-0. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: After both teams lost in the first round on Friday, the Mercer Bears and the Illinois-Chicago Flames will try to reverse their fortunes in the second round of the 2012 Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Bears played very well in the opening 20 minutes of their first-round matchup versus George Mason, and limited the Patriots to 28 percent shooting from the floor in the first half to take a 23-21 lead into the halftime. However, Mercer could not keep it up and ended up dropping a 52-49 decision to GMU. Coach Bob Hoffman's team entered the tourney on a seven-game win streak dating back to last season, which was the longest active winning streak in the nation, along with a 2-0 record after posting easy victories over Sewanee (65-36) and Oglethorpe (70-25). The Bears struggled offensively, converting only 16-of-44 attempts from the floor in Friday's loss.
UIC also came up short and suffered its first loss of the season in the first round of this tournament as it was bested, 66-59, by New Mexico. The Flames trailed by 14 points at the intermission, but staged a second-half comeback by going on a 10-2 run after halftime. However, the Lobos still somehow managed to win despite making only five field goals over the final 20 minutes. The Flames opened the season with a 59-52 win over UC Riverside at UIC Pavilion.
Mercer's 2-1 start has been accumulated without the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Player of the Year, Langston Hall. Travis Smith has stepped up while Hall continues to recover from an ankle injury. The senior guard scored a game-high 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting in Friday's loss, making him the only Mercer player to reach double figures in the low-scoring affair. The Bears have a very deep rotation as 11 different players saw action and 10 of them played 10 minutes or more versus George Mason. Daniel Coursey provided a big- time spark off the bench with seven points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. Jakob Gollon also had two blocks to go along with his team-high four steals and eight points.
Senior forward Josh Crittle led the flames with a team-high 15 points and he also grabbed seven rebounds in the team's season-opening win over UC Riverside, but foul trouble versus New Mexico kept him from achieving that same level of success the last time out. The talented forward produced only eight points and five rebounds while committing four turnovers in 26 minutes of action on Friday. Hayden Humes, Daniel Barnes and Gary Talton all played vital roles in the close loss. Humes went 6-of-11 from the field, including a 2-of-5 effort from long distance, to score a team-best 16 points. Talton was not quite as efficient, but he managed to net 6-of-8 attempts at the foul line to provide 14 points, which he paired with four assists. Barnes added 11 points behind a 3-of-8 shooting clip from three-point range.
This should be a relatively even matchup between two teams that are sure to be sour after Friday's outcomes. The Flames should be more successful in their second appearance in the Paradise Jam as it is unlikely Crittle, Barnes and Talton will combine to shoot as poorly as they did on Friday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois-Chicago 65, Mercer 62
11/17 10:33:01 ET