The 2018-2019 regular season was a rollercoaster ride for the Mercer men’s basketball team.
A few near-upset wins at the beginning of the season, a handful of close losses to the Southern Conference’s top squads, a winning streak, and now, a rough loss at home in the regular season finale.
The Bears hung around early in the game, trailing just 19-16 through the game’s first 10 minutes. However, the Spartans got hot over the half’s final minutes, outscoring the Bears 19-2 to take a 38-18 lead into halftime.
The second half saw the Bears fall behind by 26, fight back and cut the deficit down to 17, only to end up losing the game in the end by 27 points.
All in all, Saturday afternoon just wasn’t the Mercer Bears day.
(1) The good, the bad, the ugly
The good is that this team never quits. Despite losing by nearly 30 points at home, the team never slowed down or showed signs of giving up. The bad is that may not be enough, or at least it hasn’t been this season. The ugly is that the team lost their second consecutive game by double-digits to end the season. How will this young, up-and-down team respond as they enter the tournament?
(2) Being a sleeper team could be a good thing
Mercer enters the SoCon tournament as the No. 6 seed, meaning they bypass the tournament’s play-in round. They will face the No. 3 seed Furman Paladins in the second round, whom the Bears have lost to twice this year. Combine that with the fact that the Bears lost their last two games, and what you get is no one expecting the Bears to win. That could be a good thing, as the expectations and pressures are on the Paladins. Mercer played Furman well in both games this season. Could they pull of the upset?
(3) What they need to do in the tournament
If Mercer is going to pull of an upset of the Furman Paladins, their a few things that they must do. Number one, be consistent. On too many occasions this year, Mercer has fallen into scoring droughts and either a) let the other team either get back into games or b) fall into insurmountable deficits. Consistency is key. Number two, Ross Cummings must come to play. If Mercer is going to pull off the upset, the junior sharpshooter needs to score in bunches. Number three, run the floor. With players like Marcus Cohen and Daniel Love at the point, this team needs to run, run and run some more. Playing with a faster tempo can lead to open 3-pointers for Ross, dunks for Jaylen Stowe and layups for Cohen. Easy transition points are huge in close games.
Player of the Game: Victor Bafutto (No. 55)
His seven points are the most he’s scored since Feb. 14 against Western Carolina
Baffuto swatted away a career-high four blocks in the game
The 6’10 center also pulled down three rebounds
(1) Head Coach Bob Hoffman on what went wrong in the loss:
“They out battled us and we didn’t execute very well. We got beat every which way but loose tonight against a very good team. (UNGC) is long, athletic, strong and physical. When you got the separation that they did early on it’s hard to get back in the game.”
(2) Hoffman on what’s next for the his team:
“I told our team afterwards that the regular season is over, and it’s up to us if we want to try to accomplish something special at the tournament.”