Mercer men’s basketball earned its first victory of the year Sunday, running past the Toccoa Falls Eagles 110-43.
It was the Bears’ (1-1, 0-0) defense that set the tone early when the offense struggled out of the gate. Through the first 10 minutes, the Bears forced eight turnovers but were only able to turn them into 11 points.
Combine that with botched dunks and easy missed layups at the rim, and Mercer’s sloppy play allowed the Eagles to hang around early. As the first half went on, the Bears’ motion, high pick-and-roll offense created opportunities for open 3-pointers.
The Bears took advantage, converting 7-for-11, good for 64 percent. Combine that with a stifling defense that forced 16 turnovers, the Bears were hitting on all cylinders. With approximately 13 minutes remaining until halftime, something clicked for Mercer’s offense.
The Bears dominated the Eagles the final 13 minutes of the first half to the tune of a 48 to 11 run, taking the Bears into halftime up 57 to 19.
The second half was only more of the same for the Bears. Mercer and Toccoa Falls traded baskets for the first six minutes, but the Mercer offense took over during a four-minute run, stretching its 38-point lead to 51 mid-way through the second half.
As the half went on, the 3-pointer continued to be the shot of choice for the Bears, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the Bears’ points through 33 minutes of action. At the five-minute mark, the Bears hit the 100-point milestone and saw their lead stretch to 60 points.
With just 38 seconds to play, freshman Mason Green slammed home a dunk to cap off a resounding victory for the Bears. When the buzzer sounded, the Bears were on top 110 to 43, giving head coach Bob Hoffman his largest margin of victory since taking the reigns as head coach in 2008.
It just so happens that Sunday was senior guard Ria’n Holland’s birthday and he gave himself quite the birthday present. For the first time in his collegiate career, Ria’n Holland dunked in a game.
After the game, Holland said his teammates had been “ragging” him about it, so he finally decided to put one down. It was Holland who led all scorers with 16 points, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Freshman guard Marcus Cohen also had a standout performance with eight points, seven assists, and six steals to go along with a single turnover. Add that with 12 points a piece from forwards Demetre Rivers and Ethan Stair and you can see just how balanced the Bear’s offensive attack was Sunday.
The Bears are now 10-0 in season openers under head coach Bob Hoffman and 2-0 all-time against the Eagles with their last win coming in 1999. Looking ahead, the Bears will host the Tigers of Jackson State University Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Hawkins Arena.