Photo provided by Barksdale Air Force Base
“No one will want to play the Mercer Bears in March if it earns a bid. Bob Hoffman’s crew can ball,” said Andy Katz, basketball insider for NCAA.com.
To say the least, the Bears (4-2, 0-0) were impressive in the Paradise Jam, and people, outside of the small town of Macon, noticed.
In the opening round, the Bears traveled to face the Liberty University Flames. The Basketball Power Index gave the Bears about a 40 percent chance to win leading up to the game.
The Bears’ defense held the Flames’ offense in check, giving up just 34 percent shooting and out-rebounding Liberty 37 to 23.
After a very close first half, the Bears defense cracked down. They outscored the Flames 12 points in the second half, en route to an impressive 63-48 victory.
Next up for the Bears was a bout with the Drexel Dragons in the second round. The Bears built up an 11-point first half lead and never looked back from there. When the buzzer sounded, the Bears had run away with a resounding 78-59 victory.
Senior guard Ria’n Holland lead the way for the Bears, scoring 29 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Add that to another strong team performance on defense and the Bears were on their way to the Paradise Jam Championship.
On Sunday night, the Bears faced off against the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes(5-0). From the opening tip, this game seemed bound to be a nail biter.
At halftime, it was Bears trailing by 2. This was the first game of the season that the Bears found themselves trailing at the half.
It was Buffaloes senior guard George King that took over in the second half, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes. The Bears had seemingly no answer to his scoring barrage and ultimately fell short 79-70.
Looking back at each of the Bears contests this season, there is one statistic that stands out among the others. In every game the Bears outrebounded their opponents, they won, and when they didn’t, they lost.
The Bears are a team that will rely on their defense to help them win ball games, and the inability to rebound on the defensive end will allow opposing teams to get second chance opportunities, and wear down that stingy Bears defense.
Each and every one of the Bears’ goals for the season are still in front of them. With SoCon conference play upcoming, the Bears appear to be in a good position to contend for the crown at the end of the year.
The Bears will face their toughest challenge yet when they travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.