Mercer men’s basketball hadn’t won a game by more than six points in nearly two months.
That all changed Thursday night as the Bears (8-12, 3-5) throttled the Virginia Military Institute Keydets (7-13, 1-7) by way of an 88-68 blowout victory.
The game was never really close. Mercer’s Ross Cummings and Ethan Stair combined for 29 first-half points, nearly outscoring the entire Keydets team in the opening 20 minutes of play.
When the game hit halftime, the Bears led 52-31. The margin marks their largest halftime lead since a win over Maryland-Eastshore on Nov. 20, 2018.
VMI made several runs in the second half, cutting Mercer’s lead down as low as 14 points at one point. But in the end, Mercer was just too good down the stretch and stayed comfortably ahead.
(1) Ross Cummings is lethal
Five first half 3-pointers by Cummings drowned the Keydets’ chances of hanging around with the Bears. The junior guard drilled an “and-1” 3-pointer near the end of the half that brought a roar to Hawkins Arena that had been missing so far this season. The game against the Keydets marked the sixth consecutive game where Cummings was the leading scorer in the game. Lethal.
(2) Marcus Cohen, the facilitator
Seven assists to go along with just two turnovers makes for a successful night for the sophomore point guard. Cohen set a season-high mark for assists on the evening with those seven. What’s even more impressive is the two turnovers, though. Against a defense like VMI who is consistently switching schemes, it takes a floor leader, like Cohen, to keep his team focused and one step ahead.
(3) Just keep winning, just keep winning …
A two-game winning streak has Mercer riding high heading into the brunt of conference schedule. The Bears have a road matchup with UNC-Greensboro on the horizon, the defending conference champs and a team the Bears came seconds away from upsetting last year. Hoffman wants the world to know his team isn’t “looking for excuses” heading into this tough matchup, but rather, as he simply put it, “W’s”.
Player of the Game: Ethan Stair (No. 22)
Stair scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting in 33 minutes of action
The senior starter pulled down an impressive seven rebounds
Stair secured five steals, tying a season-high for the senior guard
(1) Head coach Bob Hoffman on the play of Ethan Stair…
“He’s such a great shooter from mid-range. He’s bigger than you think, and he’s aggressive. He is a really good scorer. We need Ethan to be what he has been all this year. He had a special night on both ends of the floor.”
(2) Ethan Stair talks about his team’s mindset moving forward…
“We started up a new motto this week, which is ‘Win The Day’. We’re just taking every practice, every game, day-by-day, trying to win every moment. We’re not trying to focus on the past.”
(3) Jaylen Stowe on winning two straight in conference play…
“It’s definitely big. We just want to put ourselves in a position, whenever it comes down to March in Asheville…to be the best team we can be. Win or loss, we just want to continue to get better as a team. As long as we’re getting better each and every game, it’s a positive for us.”