SHERMAN, Texas –The Austin College men's basketball team held off a late push from Howard Payne to take a 101-95 victory in the season opener on Friday night in Hughey Gym. Justice Mercadel scored 25 to lead the way for the 'Roos.
Howard Payne shot 54.1% from the field as a team compared to 45.8% for the 'Roos, but Austin College hounded the Yellow Jackets into 19 turnovers while giving it away just 11 times themselves to get the win. The 'Roos also knocked down nine triples in the game, while HPU hit five from deep. The teams went back and forth through the first half and found themselves square at 45-45 at the break, and the lead changes continued until late in the game.
Overall there were 22 lead changes throughout the game, in addition to 15 times the score was tied, and it wasn't until two threes from Derek Lockman and another from Mercadel that the 'Roos started to get a little breathing room at 84-77 with 5:22 left to play. Howard Payne trimmed it to an 87-85 game before two buckets from Devin Roland and a three-point-play by Kam Hogan made it 94-86 with 1:25 left.
The lead grew to double-figures at 99-89 on a pair of free throws by Michael Holland with 25 seconds left, but Luke Cox knocked down back-to-back threes for HPU to cut it to a 100-95 game with 14 seconds left. However, that's as close as the Yellow Jackets would get in the game's final moments.
Mercadel hit 10-of-19 shots, including 3-of-6 from long range to get his 25 points. He also added seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals in the win. Roland, Hogan, and JP Feider all finished with 15 points in the game, with Feider pulling down seven boards. Hogan and Holland each dished out five assists, and Holland grabbed a team-best eight rebounds. Kameron Hill hit 3-of-4 from three to add 11 points.
Shadd Cole left Howard Payne with 21 points, while Colton Otts added 13 and Thomas Bingham had 12 points and 11 boards. Timothy Aguero had 12 points and a game-high seven assists for HPU.