It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a season for Mercer men’s basketball and it continued on Saturday afternoon.
The Bears have competed start to finish with all of their SoCon competition this season, but Saturday was different. Saturday wasn’t close at all.
East Tennessee State was the superior team in all phases of the game, holding the Bears to just 38.6% shooting from the floor and forcing 17 Mercer turnovers.
While Mercer was able to hang around early, the Bucs used a 24-5 run to close out the first half. When the halftime buzzer rang, Mercer found themselves trailing by 19 points, 40-21.
The second half wasn’t much better. The Bears matched ETSU’s second-half scoring output, but that meant nothing in the end.
When it was all over, Mercer found themselves on the wrong side of an 88-69 trouncing. The 19-point loss is Mercer’s worst of the season.
(1) Freshman are making the most of their minutes
In just 13 minutes of playing time, freshman point guard Daniel Love matched his career-high with nine points. Love also pulled down four rebounds, dished two assists and blocked a shot. Fellow freshman C.J. Williamson played just nine minutes, but contributed four points and two rebounds. Contributions like these are what the Bears have needed this season in close games. However, as the season comes to a close, it might be time to up their minutes even more.
(2) Ethan and Ross can’t do it all
For the second consecutive game, Mercer’s top two point scorers were Ross Cummings and Ethan Stair. That’s been a consistent theme this year, but if Mercer is going to make noise in the postseason, the guys below them are going to have to step up their game. I’m not going to mention any players by name, but if the Bears can get better play from the rest of their starters combined with the improved play of their freshman, this season could start to flip in the right direction for Mercer.
(3) Do you focus on this season or look ahead to next?
No coach ever wants to admit that a season is ‘lost’ before it is actually over, but it’s beginning to feel that way for this team. Mercer currently sits at 9-17 on the season, including a 4-10 record in Southern Conference play, good for second to last. This team just can’t seem to find a concrete rhythm. At what point in the season do you start to prepare for next year by turning your younger role players into starters and senior starters into role players? By doing this, you give the younger guys valuable experience that could help your team next season.
Player of the Game: Ross “Mamba” Cummings (No. 20)
Cummings scored 17 points in 32 minutes of action for the Bears
The Mamba also pulled down a team-high six rebounds
Cummings also dished out three assists in his team’s loss to ETSU
(1) Head Coach Bob Hoffman on what went wrong in the loss
“We started pretty well and had some opportunities, but then we made some turnovers and they hit some threes and we just couldn’t get back into the game. Seventeen turnovers against this type of team just can’t happen.”
(2) Hoffman highlights the performance of a few players:
“I thought Victor Bafutto had a really good game, and I thought Ethan (Stair) and Ross (Cummings) were pretty good in the second half. They are really quick and athletic.”
(3) Hoffman on his approach to the rest of the season:
“I didn’t think that we played the kind of game that we had to play against a team like this. The season is far from over though. We need to find a way to get a win this Thursday night.”