Ross Cummings came into Saturday’s matchup averaging just eight minutes per contest for a struggling Mercer team. The sophomore guard’s role has been that of a catch-and-shoot marksman, coming in when the team needs a basket. That all changed on Saturday.
Cummings went berserk, scoring 22 points and landing six 3-pointers. It didn’t matter how good of defense Wofford was playing, Cummings was knocking them down.
“I was just playing my game,” the sophomore guard explained after the game. “It felt good to hit some shots and help my team win.”
Mercer got the victory over Wofford on Saturday in a huge 73-65 outcome. The win ends a four game losing streak for the Bears.
The game didn’t start off too well for the Bears, going down 21-9 after a six minute, 16-0 Wofford. Mercer had gone scoreless for six minutes, and the mood in Hawkins Arena was anything but excited.
Mercer fought back and held Wofford to just five points over the final 10 minutes to go into half time down just two points, 26-24.
“We were battling man, and playing great team defense,” coach Hoffman said. “The ability to grind that out and get it back workable was huge.”
The second half was a completely different story for Mercer. After shooting the ball just 32 percent in the first half, and connecting on just 3-14 from beyond the arc, the Bears seemingly could not miss in the second half.
Ross Cummings hit two huge 3-pointers early on to give the Bears a 39-36 lead. Mercer hit four 3-pointers in the first six minutes, surpassing the three the team hit in the first half.
“We had open looks in the first half, but they just rattled in out like in several game for us,” Hoffman commented after the game. “You just gotta keep trusting, and I told them to keeping shooting man. Keep believing.”
As the second half went on, there was an 11 minute stretch from 14:30 to 3:30 where the game was within three points, with both teams unable to pull away.
With 3:20 to go, senior Demetre Rivers knocked down a 3-pointer and the Bears had stretched their lead to five. Hawkins Arena was roaring.
“The crowd was great, they’ve been great,” coach Hoffman said post game. “I was trying to encourage them to help us a little bit. I hadn’t done that in a while. We had not been in the position that our guys put us in today in awhile, and I’m just very grateful and thankful for everybody that was here today.”
Wofford responded with a quick three pointer to cut the Bears lead back down to three with two minutes to go. However, Ross Cummings off a screen pulled up for a 3-pointer and landed it, sealing the deal for Mercer.
The Bears shot the lights out in the second half, knocking down 16 of its 26 shots, and 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. A complete 180 degree reversal from the first half.
Ross Cummings finished the game with 22 points on 8-10 shooting including six 3-pointers. The guard also contributed 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Senior forward Desmond Ringer was efficient all night, putting up 16 points on 7-11 shooting.
Mercer improves to 11-13 on the season and 4-7 in SoCon play, while the loss drops Wofford to 16-8 and 7-4, respectively. The win was much needed for the Bears, as they stay tied with The Citadel and Samford for fifth place in the Southern Conference.
The Bears will get some much needed rest this week, before traveling to Chattanooga, T.N. for a matchup with the Mocs of Chattanooga on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. The Bears got the best of the Mocs earlier this season, inching out a 75-71 victory at Hawkins Arena.
“I’m thankful for the win cause you know how fragile everything is in college basketball,” Hoffman said after the victory. “Every moment you gotta fight with all you got. We’re gonna be real excited about this, but we gotta go back to work and be ready for a really good Chattanooga team and Samford team on the road.”