"Offensively we didn't shoot the ball too well and that hurt, but defense won the game in this one," said head coach Jeff Lebo.
Mercer point guard James Florence scored 25 points on 7-20 shooting from the field, but he was the only Bear player with more than 11 points.
"I thought defensively we did a good job tonight for the most part," Lebo noted. "You see the ability of Florence and he can beat you by himself. He had 25, but for the most part I think we did a pretty good job on him. They rely a lot on him."
Florence came into the game averaging 17.4 points per contest. Mercer's second-leading scorer on the year, Shaddean Aaron, came into the contest averaging over 15 points per game, but was held to just two points, which came on free throws.
"He didn't score a bucket so we did a pretty good job of finally understanding the scouting report and making him put the ball on the floor and defending there," Lebo said of Aaron.
Lebo had stated coming into the game that with the limited number of scholarship players available that he would have to consider playing a less-aggressive style of defense to keep his players fresh, but the Tigers' key to success on Wednesday was a man-to-man defense.
"We've got quick hands," Lebo explained. "We've got some limitations in there. I really wasn't anticipating playing in this game as much man. I started in it and we actually did guard it pretty well in man-to-man so I decided to stay in it.
"We get fatigued so much in it. Part of that when you get fatigued is that it's hard to make shots on the other end. We missed some easy ones, too.
"We were planning on doing it and we plan on playing it in the future, probably, mixing it in there," he added of the zone. "We did play some zone, but not as much as I anticipated because I thought defensively they were struggling against the man."
Rasheem Barrett was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 17 points on 8-21 shooting from the floor.
"There was a time in the first half where I had wide open three," Barrett explained. "I had missed two other threes so I drove in. Coach brought me to the bench and told me I've got to shoot it with confidence. He said to keep shooting."
He also had four steals, which led to easy buckets for the Tigers as scored 19 points off turnovers and had 12 points in transition.
Quan Prowell added 16 points off the bench on 7-11 shooting from the floor. He also had a couple of easy ones spin out of the basket after the ball was halfway down.
Most of his 16 points came in the paint against the slower Mercer post players. "A couple of times he took the ball to the bucket," Lebo said of Prowell. "He's got an advantage with his quickness when he plays against a big guy. He got a key offensive rebound and stick back for us in the second half."
Korvotney Barber finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots. "We've played together for a while," Prowell said of the Auburn inside combo, "so we pretty much understand what each other is going to do. I think that makes it easier for us on the court together. Me and Vot down low, we work pretty good together."
Barber makes a move toward the basket.
DeWayne Reed and Frank Tolbert were held to eight and three points, respectively, but chipped in six assists each.
The first half was back and forth until Auburn slowly pulled away and built a nine-point lead at halftime, 30-21. It grew to as much as 18 in the second half before the Tigers got in foul trouble, and Mercer sank 20-26 from the line.
"We fouled too much in the game and one of our goals was to keep them out of the one-and-one for the first 15 minutes of each half and never get them into the two-shot bonus," Lebo noted. "We fouled too much."
The final score, 68-59, was as close as the Bears could get at a nine-point margin.
"We didn't finish out right," Lebo said. "I thought we took some ill-advised shots when we could hold it and run the clock a little bit. We didn't finish out the game like I would have liked.
"It was a good win," he added.
Tiger Ticket Note
Guard Archie Miaway has not played in a game this year because of academics and did not play against Mercer. However, with fall semester at Auburn finishing last week he may have a chance to return for Saturday's game against Alabama A&M. "He's got a chance," Lebo said. Lebo added that he should know "in the next couple of days. Probably before the next game." Tipoff on Saturday in Auburn is set for 1 p.m. with television coverage on CSS.