HOMEWOOD – Samford’s 78-69 victory over visiting Mercer at the Pete Hanna Center in the Southern Conference opener for both teams was about how Jermaine Marshall and Logan Dye filled the box score.

It was also about how Bubba Parham didn’t fill the box score.

Marshall had 25 points, five 3-pointers and seven rebounds. Dye had 23 points, three 3-pointers and three rebounds. The only way to truly chart Parham’s contribution to a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak is by checking the minutes played category. On a day that it was questionable, at best, that he would play, Parham was on the floor for 21 minutes.

“Yesterday, it was unlikely. Today at noon, it was ‘Ah, I don’t know,’” said Samford head coach Bucky McMillan of Parham, who had a 103-degree fever on Tuesday. “At game time, it was, ‘Let’s give it a go.’ I’ll just say this, the nature of sports, sometimes it’s all about me. My stats and my this and I may not play because of my future. A lot of times, in that spot, when someone’s sick, someone’s hurt, they won’t get the minutes they normally get, they don’t play because they’re worried their stats will drop. In a team sport, it becomes a me deal.”

Parham, who averages nearly 10 points per game, took just one shot – a second-half 3-pointer that he made -- on Wednesday. But that was not important.

“Bubba is not worried that, ‘I only got one shot tonight because I was sick,’” McMillan said. “He just looked at it as we got one win tonight.”

He was just one of many Samford players who contributed – both big and small – to a win on a night that four key players remain sidelined by injury. Nathan Johnson had 14 points and four 3-pointers, with 11 of those points and all but one 3-pointer coming in the first half. Achor Achor, who, like Parham, is dealing with flu-like symptoms, had six points and three rebounds in 14 minutes. Point guard Jaron Rillie had seven points, 10 assists and three turnovers in 35 minutes. Britton Johnson, a walk-on, saw his role elevated, and he grabbed four rebounds in the first half.

Then there was Quinn Richey, a 6-foot-5 walk-on guard, who averaged six minutes per game in 10 appearances coming into the game. On Wednesday, he started and played 28 minutes. He didn’t score, but he did have two assists, a rebound and no turnovers.  

“If you would have told me that Quinn Richey would start the conference game and play like that for 28 minutes,” said McMillan, whose team was 13-of-23 on 3-pointers. “He comes out there and plays with that confidence. He comes out and acts like he’s done that his whole life. It may not show up on the stat sheet, but he guarded, he played.”

Samford battled from the tip against a Mercer team that has one of the most efficient offensive groups in the country. The Bulldogs (7-7 overall) found a way to take a 36-35 halftime lead when Nathan Johnson hit a 3-pointer just before the first-half buzzer. The play was set up when Samford retained possession on a hustle play by Parham, who chased down a basketball that was headed out of bounds and threw it off a Mercer player. Rillie then penetrated and dished off to Nathan Johnson outside the 3-pointer arc.

Samford started quickly in the second half, hitting four 3-pointers in the first four minutes to take a 50-40 lead. The Bulldogs kept the advantage in double digits for most of the second half, with the largest lead coming at 73-55 with 2:04 left.

The Bulldogs were able to put the seven-game losing streak behind and open up another chapter with a win.

“I told the guys it’s 0-0. All the other games are practice,” Marshall said. “This is the first real game of the season [with the start of SoCon play]. We went out there, and we played well.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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