The top team in the Southern Conference walked into Hawkins Arena Thursday tonight as heavy favorites against a Mercer team sitting in seventh place.
Wofford is a team that has dominated Mercer (8-14, 3-7) during Hoffman’s tenure, winning seven of the last 10 meetings between the teams. And with the way that Thursday night started, it looked like Wofford (18-4, 10-0) was going to run away with another commanding win.
The Terriers were all over the Bears for nearly the entire first half, leading for nearly 17 of 20 minutes, and by as many as 15 points. However, a strong finish to the half by Mercer cut the Wofford lead down to 40-37 at halftime.
The second half didn’t stray far from the first. Mercer came close many times to taking the lead, but never could make the jump.
Missed free-throws down the stretch shot the Bears in the foot, and Wofford took advantage. The result was a 76-67 victory for the Terriers.
(1) The emergence of Fardaws Aimaq
Days after posting the best game of his career, Aimaq had another strong showing on Thursday night. The sophomore center put up seven points and 13 rebounds, to go along with two blocks. For a team that lacks size in its starting lineup, to have a guy like Aimaq off the bench is critical.
(2) This team needs a go-to scorer
Mercer is a team that is prone to long scoring droughts this season. Against weaker competition, you can get away with that. However, against SoCon rivals like Wofford, they can, and often will, cost you the game. Mercer fought back hard against a very good Wofford team, but fell cold late in the second half. The Bears desperately need someone to step up, demand the ball and deliver baskets.
(3) When is the switch going to flip? Or will it?
For most young teams, at some point in the season, something clicks. Whether in the form of a buzzer-beater victory, a come-from-behind win or an upset, there’s always a spark. It’s hard to describe what happens afterward, but the shots that weren’t falling, start to fall, and the defensive sets that weren’t working, start locking teams down. As the season goes on, it seems as if each opportunity that Mercer has to flip that proverbial “switch” comes and goes. The Bears are running out of time, and need a marquee moment to turn their season around.
Player of the Game: Cory Kilby (No. 1)
Kilby earns his first Player of the Game honors, scoring a team-high 16 points
The senior starter shot an efficient 5-of-8 from the floor, including a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe
Kilby also pulled down two rebounds and hit two 3-pointers in 29 minutes of action
(1) Head coach Bob Hoffman on the play of Fardaws Aimaq…
“He had a great game tonight. He’s getting better. He deserves the minutes he’s getting. We’re going to keep trying to find him. Our guys believe in him, and they’ve been encouraging him the whole time. He really helped us tonight against their big bodies.”
(2) Hoffman talks about the need for his team to step up…
“We need all our guys. We need everybody playing the best they can on every possession. We had an opportunity, and we just let it slip away. It definitely falls back on me.”
(3) Hoffman on how his team’s mindset following the tough loss…
“This is a group of great young men who are trying really hard. We will need to find ways to have good mental pictures of what we need to do to get better.”