After watching his team fall behind quickly in its last two games at McAlister Field House, The Citadel basketball coach Duggar Baucom shuffled his starting lineup on Monday night against Mercer.
The strategy worked — for a few minutes. In the end, it couldn't make up for a dismal shooting night as Mercer led by as many as 16 points en route to a 71-64 victory at McAlister Field House.
James Glisson III scored 16 points with nine rebounds as the Bears (11-7, 4-1) moved into a first-place tie with Chattanooga in the Southern Conference.
Stephen Clark piled up 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks before fouling out for the Bulldogs (7-9, 1-4), who have lost six of their last seven.
A normal 3-point shooting night might have given The Citadel a chance, but the Bulldogs couldn't make it happen against the length of Mercer, which has seven players at 6-6 or taller. Shooting 35.2 percent from 3-point range coming in, The Citadel was 5 of 24 (20.8 percent) against Mercer, and two of those were in the last 45 seconds after the game was out of reach.
The Bears stuck to freshman sharpshooter Jason Roche (1 of 5 on treys), and only first-time starter David Maynard (2 of 5) could hit more than one from deep.
"We're not going to beat anybody going 5 of 24," Citadel coach Duggar Baucom said on his postgame radio show. "Mercer did a good job of guarding us. They weren't going to let Jason Roche get loose and did a great job on him. David Maynard played well in his first start, but we just couldn't get any flow.
"Everything was real choppy, and we had some guys who had been playing well not play so well."
The Citadel did a decent job defensively on Mercer's top two scorers, former Wake Forest guard Jaylen Johnson and ex-South Carolina Gamecock Felipe Haase. Johnson was just 2 of 9 for five points, while the 6-9 Haase got 14 points with 12 rebounds and six assists, going 6 of 6 from the foul line.
But the 6-6 Glisson made 7 of 13 shots, and 6-6 junior Shawn Walker Jr., shooting 18.4 percent from 3-point range coming in, made his first three treys for nine points.
"Shawn Walker has been a driver the majority of his career, and he steps out and goes 3 of 4 on threes," Baucom said. "But that's what good teams do."
SoCon preseason player of the year Hayden Brown, who missed the second half of a 90-85 loss to VMI with a leg injury, returned to the lineup but was just 2 of 8 from the floor. He made 11 of 14 from the foul line for 16 points to go with eight rebounds.
The Bulldogs started Jerry Higgins and Maynard in the backcourt, each for the first time, and got off to a 7-2 lead. The Bulldogs led 19-16 before Walker hit a couple of 3-pointers as the Bears built a 27-19 edge and led 32-26 at the half.
The Citadel is at Wofford on Jan. 19 for its fourth game in seven days.